Man acquitted in quadruple homicide trial loses bid to have felony record expunged
07/24/2014 1:43 PM
08/08/2014 10:21 AM
A former Wichitan who was acquitted by a jury of taking part in a quadruple homicide in 2000 lost a bid Wednesday to have a subsequent aggravated assault conviction expunged from his record.
Earl Bell III, 33, who now lives in Oklahoma, was one of two men who stood trial for the December 2000 shooting deaths of four teenagers in a house near Ninth and Hillside in Wichita. The second suspect, Cornelius Oliver, was convicted of the murders and is serving a sentence of life without parole for 140 years. Oliver, 31, is a special management inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.
At the time of the crime, Wichita police said Oliver shot two of the victims before his gun jammed, then used a gun carried by Bell to shoot the others. A Sedgwick County jury acquitted Bell of all charges in February 2002.
The second case against Bell arose from an Aug. 22, 2002, disturbance that police said resulted in him firing a 9mm handgun at two men after an argument that arose from his involvement in the murders.
Bell was charged in that case with two counts of attempted first-degree murder but pleaded no contest to reduced aggravated assault charges and was sentenced to 26 months in prison. He was paroled in June 2004 and discharged from parole two years later.
Bell’s lawyer, Doug Adams, said in his motion for expungement that his client deserved to have the conviction removed from his record.
“Mr. Bell has turned his life around and has shown himself to be an upstanding citizen deserving of this expungement,” he wrote in the motion. “In May of 2013 he graduated with honors with a degree in business administration and a minor in management from Northwestern Oklahoma State University.”
The motion went on to say that Bell is an Army reservist who has served one tour of duty, and that he has full custody of three of his children while paying child support for a fourth.
“Perhaps most significantly, he has remained away from legal entanglements since his parole discharge in October of 2006,” the motion said.
Adams said in court that the expungement would allow Bell to be promoted beyond the rank of E-6 in the Army Reserve and would give him an opportunity for advancement at work.
“He’s done as much as he could possibly do to turn his life around,” he said.
Prosecutor Mandee Schauf opposed Bell’s motion.
“Given the severity of the crimes, the state is not willing to agree” to the expungement, she said.
Schauf said a records check on Bell turned up an August 2005 drug arrest that did not result in a conviction.
The request for the expungement was made to District Judge Joseph Bribiesca, who presided at Bell’s quadruple-murder trial and sentenced Bell on the aggravated assault convictions.
“The court should not base its decision solely on the fact that Mr. Bell was charged and tried for a quadruple homicide – the jury exonerated him on that,” Bribiesca said. “However, it did play a role” in the aggravated assault convictions.
Bribiesca said he had no evidence, other than the statements of Bell, to support the argument that the public interest would be served by the expungement.
“I am of the opinion that on balance, at least this time, it’s not in the interest of public welfare to grant the motion,” he said.
The victims of the quadruple homicide – Jermaine Levy, 19, Raeshawnda Wheaton, 18, Quincy Williams, 17, and Dessa Ford, 17 – were shot to death in a duplex at 1144 N. Erie on the night of Dec. 6, 2000. Wichita police said that Oliver, who was Wheaton’s boyfriend, had a history of domestic violence. Witnesses at his trial said he beat her and threatened her with a gun in the months before the killings.