Family members hope for arrest in murder
Police remain hopeful about case
The first grandchild of the late Robin Bell is due three months from now, and if Bell were here today, she'd be relieved to know that doctors proclaim the baby boy is healthy.
"(He's) doing well," said Bell's daughter, Melissa Davis, of Basehor. "They actually believe he is the reason why I'm coping with this better than some others.
"They said I'd be completely strung out and stressed out if I didn't have the baby to take care of and focus on."
For many of Bell's family -- and all the police detectives investigating her homicide -- the sole focus for the last three weeks has been finding the person who took the opportunity away from Bell to see that grandchild be born.
Bell, 44, Tonganoxie, was found dead Nov. 12 inside the north Dollar General Store in Bonner Springs. An arrest has yet to be made in the case.
This week, officers involved with the investigation into the homicide said they were sifting through evidence and interviewing potential witnesses. Investigators also reiterated they believe the woman's killer will be brought to justice.
"I still believe this case can be solved, and we have all available resources working toward that conclusion," said Lt. Rick Schubert, who is one of seven officers from the Bonner Springs Police Department investigating the case.
Police say there is still a "vast quantity of evidence" that experts at the Johnson County Crime Lab are analyzing and granting priority status to. At any point, Schubert said, the findings from those pieces of evidence could lead to a significant break in the case.
"It's still an open, ongoing investigation," Schubert said. "We are still pursuing leads, and new leads are coming in every day."
Police discovered Bell's body about 3 a.m. Nov. 12, in the back of the Dollar General store, which is near the intersection of Kansas Highway 7 and Kansas Avenue. The discovery came after Bell's husband, Tonganoxie resident Don Bell, called police to say his wife of nine years had not returned home after work that evening.
Officers forced their way into the store and encountered what one officer described later that morning as a "gruesome crime scene." Investigators have not released the official cause of the woman's death, but they acknowledged she suffered head trauma.
Police are seeking the public's help in finding Bell's killer.
In the hours following the discovery of Bell's body, Police Chief John Haley requested assistance from a Metro Squad unit. Members of that specialized unit, a force that contained at least four officers from the Bonner Springs Police Department, worked hand-in-hand with local detectives to sift through more than 150 leads during the next week. The unit disbanded Nov. 20, after turning over operational control of the murder probe to the Bonner Springs agency.
The metro squad was set to disband one day earlier, but new evidence from the crime lab sent the case in a new direction Nov. 19. Members of the metro squad executed three search warrants that evening and took "a person of interest" into custody on unrelated charges.
Officers arrested 19-year-old Bonner Springs resident Aaron Clark, who formerly worked as a manager of the Dollar General where Bell was employed. He was detained Nov. 19 for the alleged theft of more than $1,600 that investigators said was removed from the store earlier this year. Clark posted bail Nov. 22 and was released from Wyandotte County Jail.
According to the Wyandotte County district attorney's office, Clark has not yet made a courtroom appearance. A prosecution spokesman said he didn't know when Clark would stand before a judge.
Investigators said they do not have a particular suspect and are not ruling anyone out.
"No previous persons of interest have been eliminated from the investigation," Schubert said, adding that police are questioning several other people at this point.
Though police seem confident that Bell's killer will be found, charged and prosecuted, her daughter said family members are growing increasingly frustrated with what they perceive as a lack of police progress.
"They acted like everything was going to be so open and shut," she said. "We're still waiting for the shut part."
Davis said her mother's murder casts a shadow over her and other family members, who, under the circumstances, are doing their best to cope with life after the tragedy. They are attempting to restore some sense of normalcy, she said.
"Everyone is doing a little bit better," Davis said. "I think all the shock is starting to wear off. It makes everything real."
Things will be easier, Davis said, when her mother's murderer is behind bars instead of walking the streets.
"Part of closure is knowing that the person that did it is not going to hurt anyone else and that they are going to pay for what they've done," she said. "I don't think we'll be able to put this behind us until they find whoever it was."
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