Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Probe continues into woman’s murder

Police rule out man involved in argument

November 17, 2005

Detectives investigating the murder of a Tonganoxie woman, who was manager of the north Dollar General store in Bonner Springs, have not yet identified a suspect.

Reports surfaced Tuesday that indicated detectives investigating the homicide of Robin Bell, 44, Tonganoxie, were closing in on a suspect and an arrest was pending.

Not true, said Jeff Cowdrey, a detective with the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and spokesman for the Metro Squad.

"I think this is a very solvable case, but we're not there yet," Cowdrey said Tuesday morning.

Bell was found dead about 3 a.m. Saturday inside the Dollar General store at Kansas Highway 7 and Kansas Avenue, with severe head wounds. Investigators said doors to the store were locked when they arrived Saturday morning; they also confirmed that an undisclosed amount of money was found missing from the store.

The case is being investigated as Bonner Springs' first homicide since 2003.

Cowdrey said the Bonner Springs police department asked that Metro Squad detectives assist with the investigation. Fourteen detectives have been assigned to the case.

Investigators convened Sunday and on Monday processed the crime scene for a second time, Cowdrey said. They've also been interviewing Bell's co-workers, family members and people who've called police with tips.

On Tuesday, detectives interviewed a man who got into an argument with Bell the day she died. Bell's co-workers said she had politely asked a couple who were having a loud disagreement outside Dollar General to leave the premises Friday.

The man became unruly and began screaming at Bell.

Co-workers encouraged Bell to call police, but she did not.

Cowdrey said that man voluntarily came forward to investigators. Following Tuesday's interview, he was ruled out as a suspect.

"He had nothing to do with anything," Cowdrey said. "It was a domestic dispute, nothing more."

An autopsy was performed on Bell's body during the weekend. Cowdrey would not release the cause of death. However, he did confirm reports that Bell suffered severe head trauma.

Bonner Springs police found Bell's body just before 3 a.m. Saturday. Her husband, Don Bell, also of Tonganoxie, called police about 2:30 a.m. after he awoke and realized his wife hadn't returned home from work.

The store closed at 8 p.m.

After Bell's call, police entered the store and found a "very gruesome scene," Bonner Springs police said.

Sgt. Mark Zaretski of the Bonner Springs Police Department said Saturday that investigators were working on "well over 100 leads" and were also reviewing parking lot videotapes from nearby businesses.

Bell was promoted to manager of the Kansas Avenue Dollar General in October. She had worked for the corporation for three years.

Her co-workers said they lost more than just a supervisor. They lost a true friend.

"She was my manager and she was my best friend," said Meagan Riley, Shawnee. "I thought of her like my second mother."

"She worked hard and did everything for this store and for us, too," said Amanda Crews, Bonner Springs.

Standing just a few feet from the crime scene Saturday, Don Bell said his wife of nine years had two goals: to run Dollar General and to own a new Mustang.

"And she got her new Mustang last Wednesday and her store three weeks ago," said Bell, while looking at his wife's car, which was still in the store's parking lot.

Bell encouraged the perpetrator of the homicide to come forward.

"Whoever did this ... please come forward and take care of it. Help us have some closure."

Robin Bell's funeral was scheduled for 2 p.m. today, Nov. 17, at the Tonganoxie Christian Church. Burial will be in Maple Grove Cemetery, Tonganoxie. (Full obituary, Page 8A.)

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