Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Murder rocks lives of friends, family members

Tonganoxie woman recalled as hard worker, good friend

November 17, 2005

Her husband remembers a wife he could talk "hours and hours and hours with." Her mother recalls a daughter who was "a good girl" who still liked to wear bell-bottom jeans.

And her own daughter said her mom "just about started doing cartwheels" when informed she would be a grandma.

Friends and family are using good memories such as these to soften the edges from Saturday's tragic news that Robin Bell -- a Tonganoxie woman and manager of the Dollar General store in Bonner Springs -- was found dead, the victim of an apparent homicide. Police found her at the store in the early morning hours of Saturday.

Robin's husband of nine years, Don Bell of Tonganoxie, said his family is reeling from the news that somebody would harm someone as kind as his wife. Many of her co-workers, friends and family have voiced similar sentiments.

"It's a shock to everybody ... that she got beat like that," Bell said. "To tell you the truth, it really hasn't set in yet. It's been hard on us."

"This just devastates me," said Lisa Swart, Robin Bell's friend of 12 years. "I just burst into tears when I heard. I didn't know what to think. I still don't."

Compounding the loss of Bell for friends and family is the knowledge that the person responsible for her death is walking the streets. An investigation into the homicide continued Tuesday; a detective working the case said a suspect has not yet been identified.

Funeral services for Bell will be today, Nov. 17, at Tonganoxie Christian Church. Many attending the service undoubtedly will feel the same hollowness as the Rev. Ben Saathoff, senior minister at the church and someone who'd known Bell for 30 years.

"So many (bad) things are happening at this point that shouldn't be, but they certainly are," Saathoff said. "I just feel for the whole family. You just hurt right there with them."

Robin Bell, 44, married Don Bell in 1996. Mutual friends introduced them and, having both been through turbulent previous marriages, the couple developed a quick rapport through easy conversation.

"What impressed me about Robin is that we could talk for hours and hours and hours," Don Bell said. "We could still do that right up until the last day."

Don Bell said his wife was "real friendly, not outgoing, but not exactly shy, either." Her friends said she was easy-going, enjoyed watching football and racing and liked to listen to live music.

Swart, Robin's friend for more than a decade, said the two of them became fast friends because their personalities were so different.

Where Swart was sometimes loud, Robin was usually reserved. It was a fire-and-ice friendship that remained strong even when Swart moved from Kansas to Tennessee years ago.

"She was always there for me," Swart said. "She knew how to keep a secret and she knew how to be a best friend. ... I can't think of why anyone would want to hurt her. She doesn't have a mean streak in her.

"She was always smiling, and you never saw a frown on her face even if she was upset."

Dirk Scates, the pastor of Tonganoxie Christian Church, where Bell was a congregation member, said news of Bell's death sent shockwaves through the church.

"It was certainly a shock," Scates said. "We have great concern for Robin's family."

The church has begun collecting money for the family to help ease their burden for the funeral cost, Scates said.

Saathoff, who's known Robin's family for years, said her strong character always impressed him.

"She was always very honest, straight forward and hard working," he said. "If she said she was going to do something, you could count on it. ... When you talked with Robin, you knew what she said to be the case."

Don Bell said his wife accomplished two of her primary goals -- becoming manager of Dollar General and purchasing a new Mustang -- just before she died. However, she was robbed of the opportunity to accomplish the third and most important item on her wish list, Bell added.

"She wanted to see her grandson," he said. "She almost got all three."

Robin's daughter, Melissa Davis of Basehor, is pregnant and expected to deliver a baby boy in March. Robin was happy her first grandchild was on the way.

"She was very excited," Davis said. "When I told her ... she just about started doing cartwheels."

On Friday, the day before she died, Robin picked up a recent sonogram of the baby. She and Davis viewed the picture together during Robin's shift at Dollar General.

"She was bragging to all her customers," Davis said. "This baby meant so much to her."

Several hours later, Robin Bell -- beloved wife, mother and daughter, a trusted friend, supervisor and expectant grandmother -- fell victim to a unthinkable violent crime that leaves more questions than answers.

"I can't think of any reason why somebody would want to hurt her," Swart said. "Who would do something like that and for what? Some money? That's not reason enough to take her from us like that."

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