Archive for Friday, December 21, 2007

Bell murder suspect to be tried as adult

December 21, 2007

A judge ruled Thursday that a Kansas City, Kan., man will be tried as an adult in the brutal murder two years ago of the manager of a Bonner Springs Dollar General store.

Wyandotte County District Judge David Boal's ruling came after hearing testimony about the death of Robin Bell, a 44-year-old Tonganoxie woman who managed the store. The judge said Robert Haberlein, 19, of Kansas City, Kan., will be tried as an adult. Haberlein was 17 at the time of the murder.

Haberlein and two other people - John Backus, 21, of Bonner Springs, and Amber Russell, 17, of Lenexa - are charged in the murder.

Bakus was an adult at the time of the murder. Meanwhile, Russell, who was 15 when the murder occurred, has worked out an agreement that the district attorney's office will not seek to try her as an adult - as long as she testifies truthfully against the other two defendants.

On Thursday, Russell gave this description of events on Nov. 11, 2005.

The three went into Dollar General about 8 p.m. and shopped for items. They eventually went to the cash register where Bell, a manager and the only employee in the store at the time, rang them up. Russell said she knew Bell because the manager was a friend of her family.

Haberlein then went behind the counter, pulled Bell's arms behind her and took her to the back of the store. Russell said she knew Haberlein had a gun. Ultimately, Backus and Russell went to the rear of the store, where Haberlein had the gun trained on Bell.

Haberlein forced Bell to open the safe and remove money. Bell then tried to escape, but was caught, and Haberlein beat her and shot her in the head "at least two to three times," Russell said. The three left the store with money.

What happened next drew an audible groan from the audience that filled the small courtroom: the trio went to a nearby McDonald's, where they got food at the drive-through and ate it in the car.

They then went to Haberlein's parents' home in Kansas City, Kan., where Backus and Haberlein changed clothes. Then drove to the Argentine neighborhood in Kansas City, Kan., where they stopped on a bridge, and Haberlein threw the money, clothes and gun into the river.

During cross-examination of Russell, Ki Ann McBratney, Haberlein's attorney, noted several inconsistencies in Russell's testimony and what she's earlier told police.

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