Police mum concerning status of man in custody
On Saturday, Metro Squad investigators probing the murder of a 44-year-old Tonganoxie woman were set to leave the investigation when new leads came pouring in.
The officers received results of physical evidence analyzed at the Johnson County Crime Lab that pointed to a name authorities recognized.
"His name came up early in the investigation, along with several other names, and based on information we received from the Johnson County Crime Lab we obtained three search warrants," said Detective Jeff Cowdrey, a Metro Squad spokesperson.
The Metro Squad had joined with Bonner Springs officers in working on the murder of Robin Bell at the Dollar General store she managed in Bonner Springs.
Officers searched a home and vehicle in Bonner Springs and an additional home in Kansas City, Kan., and then took the man into custody on outstanding warrants that were unrelated to Bell's murder.
Investigators questioned the man for several hours Saturday evening and he remained in Wyandotte County Jail on Sunday. However, he has not been charged in connection with Bell's death and his name is not being released, the detective said.
On Sunday, members of the Metro Squad officially left the investigation, turning the unsolved homicide over to the Bonner Springs Police Department.
For a week, 14 detectives had investigated the death of the Dollar General manager. Her body was found early Nov. 12 inside the store, which is near the intersection of Kansas Avenue and Kansas Highway 7.
Before ending its probe into the murder Sunday afternoon, the Metro Squad had followed more than 150 leads. Normally, Cowdrey said, when the unit is called in for a case they are given three days to assist with the investigation and then must ask for an extension to remain. At that point they are give "two days here or two days there," but they packed up Sunday after deciding to end their involvement in the probe, Cowdrey said.
Throughout the week the squad and officers from the Bonner Springs department worked hand-in-hand on the investigation, Cowdrey said.
Break at any time
Even though the Metro Squad completed its investigation without arresting anyone for the murder, a break in the case could come at any time.
"There is a lot of physical evidence in Johnson County that has not been tested," Cowdrey said. "So it's possible that something could come up and blow the case wide open."
Officers discovered Bell's body after her husband, Don, called police about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 12 and said he was concerned because his wife had not returned home from work. After forcing their way inside the retail store that Robin Bell managed, police encountered what one officer described as a gruesome crime scene. Cowdrey has not divulged the official cause of death, but officers at the scene said Bell sustained severe head trauma.
Police did not encounter any signs of forced entry and the store, which closed at 8 p.m. Nov. 11, was locked when they arrived. Additionally, investigators have confirmed that Bell's keys were with her when police arrived.
"We looked at that as a possibility that it was an inside job, but there are all kinds of theories," Cowdrey said. "Someone could have been in the store when it closed and she might not have known it or it could have been someone she knew."
In addition to those clues there are other layers of evidence for investigators to sift through. Money was removed from the store that night, and although investigators are not releasing how much, Cowdrey said the amount was probably "substantial for a Dollar General store."
"We can only assume on that -- that the robbery was used as a coverup or the original intention was robbery and it went bad," he said. "We just know that money was taken."
Metro Squad detectives are disappointed with the prospect of leaving a case before making an arrest.
"It's bizarre," Cowdrey said. "Here is a lady who is minding her own business, making an honest living and, by all indications, not involved with anything illegal and she is murdered in her place of business. Not to solve it is frustrating for us as detectives."
Family in pain
The murder has also been frustrating -- and painful -- for members of Bell's family. In a press conference Thursday evening in Tonganoxie, about a dozen family members wore T-shirts with Bell's picture flanked by the words, "You can take us from her, but you can't take her from us."
"As you can see, we're a close family," said Don Bell, Robin's husband of nine years. "We need some closure."
Don Bell also expressed frustration with not knowing who committed this unthinkable crime against his wife and anger that the killer had not been brought to justice.
"I don't care who it is," Bell said. "I'd like to have five minutes alone with them.
He added, "Basically, I just want to know why. ... Nobody deserves to get beat like that."
Bell said T-shirts that family members wore Thursday will become a common sight in the area.
"You're going to be seeing a lot of them," he said.
The family also released a statement Thursday thanking area residents and businesses for their help -- and encouraging people to come forward with additional information about the murder.
"Any information is helpful. If (you don't) come forward for Robin, do it for the fact that she was a daughter, a wife, a mother and a grandmother. She will forever be in our hearts and minds and again we thank you all."