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Bell v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

May 20, 2015

ROY BELL, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below)

Appeal from the Fulton Superior Court, No. 25D01-1111-MR-755. The Honorable Wayne E. Steele, Judge.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Edward R. Ruiz, Plymouth, Indiana; Eric K. Koselke, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Ian McLean, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Rucker, Justice. Rush, C.J., and Dickson, David and Massa, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 496

On Direct Appeal

Rucker, Justice.

Twenty-four-year-old Roy E. Bell was charged in a multi-count information with murder, felony murder, burglary, robbery, and criminal confinement. The State also sought life imprisonment without parole. After a bench trial Bell was found guilty as charged, and the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment for the murder conviction.

Page 497

In addition the trial court sentenced Bell to a term of years for the burglary and robbery convictions. Bell now appeals challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his murder conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Facts and Procedural History

On November 22, 2011, Timothy and Deborah Richardson returned home from work to discover the lifeless body of Deborah's eighty-one-year-old mother Wilma Upsall who had lived with the couple for only a few months. Upsall was bound to a chair with a towel and telephone cord. She died from multiple gunshot wounds " either of which could [have been] fatal." Ex. 175 at 3. Timothy soon discovered that the bedroom which he and his wife shared had been ransacked. He testified, " [e]verything was dumped out of the drawers . . . everything was just a mess. All my guns were missing, and I noticed the jewelry box was empty." Tr. at 184. The remainder of the house was largely undisturbed. Apparently, entry to the home had been gained by using a rock to smash a sliding glass door that opened onto the patio. Cohorts William Scroggs, Jason Miller, and Roy Bell quickly emerged as persons of interest. The following day, the Indiana State Police conducted surveillance on a home where they believed the men could be found. When three men left the house traveling in an El Camino-type vehicle, police followed and eventually tried to stop the vehicle for a traffic violation. The men led police on a high- speed chase through multiple counties. Eventually, the vehicle crashed in a ditch. Miller was arrested at the scene--the other two men fled. Along the path of the chase and at the crash site police recovered, among other things, a bag of jewelry, an extension cord, and several firearms that Timothy later identified as having been taken from his home.

The next day--two days after the killing--State Police executed a search warrant for the home the three men had been observed leaving. Michelle Rzepczynski lived there with her parents and daughters. Rzepczynski had dated Bell's father until approximately three months earlier. She knew Bell and considered him as one of her own children. Rzepczynski told police that Bell had come to the house in the early morning hours of November 23 and told her, " I've been here with you all f***in' day; and if you say anything different, I'll kill you." Ex. 178A at 15-16. When Rzepczynski pressed Bell to tell her what was wrong, he said, " I just f***in' murdered someone, okay, bitch?" " I put two (2) clips in that bitch." Id. at 17, 22. Rzepczynski said Bell told her he killed Upsall because his mask came off while he was carrying items and Upsall recognized him. Id. at 13-14. DNA testing of a later recovered homemade black mask revealed " Mr. Scroggs and Mr. Bell could not be excluded as having deposited the DNA on the mask." Tr. at 133.

Bell was taken into custody on November 24. After waiving his Miranda[1] rights Bell gave a statement to the police. According to Bell, he, Miller, and Scroggs had been getting high on pills when they wanted to go do " other stuff." Ex. 179A at 32. In order to get money for what they wanted the trio went to a couple of abandoned houses, " [j]ust lookin' for junk, scrap, somethin' like that" to sell. Id. at 33-34. After coming up empty at the other houses, they decided to target the Richardsons' home because, according to Bell, " a buddy ...


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