Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

Suspects named in Robin Bell murder in custody

September 27, 2007

Twenty-two months after Robin Bell's brutal murder at a Dollar General store in Bonner Springs, three people have been charged in her death.

John Backus, 20, Bonner Springs, Robert Haberlein, 19, Kansas City, Kan., and Amber Russell, 17, Lenexa, are charged with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery in connection with Bell's murder.

Bell, a Tonganoxie resident, was found dead Nov. 12, 2005, inside the store where she worked as a manager.

Backus, the only one of the three suspects who was not a minor at the time of the crime, remains in Wyandotte County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond. Detention hearings for Haberlein and Russell are scheduled today.

After announcing the charges Wednesday, authorities said they couldn't comment on the evidence against the them.

"Suffice it to say, I believe we have sufficient evidence to file charges against all three," said Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman.

He and Bonner Springs Police Chief John Haley said a break in the case came Friday night during an investigation into an unrelated crime.

Gorman said there was no indication the suspects had any connection to Dollar General or Robin Bell before the murder. The three suspects, however, do know one another.

Gorman said no decision has been made on whether to charge Haberlein or Russell as adults.

Bell's husband, Don Bell, said he had just recently told family members that he had given up that his wife's killers would be caught.

On Wednesday, Bell, who lives in Edwardsville, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of his wife that read "you can take us from her but you can't take her from us."

Don Bell and other family members had worked to bolster a reward fund for information about Robin Bell's death.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone would qualify for the reward, which now amounts to more than $16,000. If it's not successfully claimed, the money would go to a foundation or the TIPS hot line, according to Melissa Mathia, Robin Bell's daughter.

- Jesse Truesdale, Bonner Springs Chieftain reporter, can be reached at (913) 422-2169.

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