“I was always very scared of him. And I still am.”
Brenda Branscum, the aunt of Dwight Bell, describes her nephew as a troubled man who spent most of the years between 1999 and 2012 in prison after shooting his father to death.
Bell, 41, is being sought for questioning by Somerset Police in the investigation into the murder and sexual assault last week of Carolyn New, 70. New was found dead in the activity center of Denham Street Baptist Church in a crime that has stunned the community.
New and her late husband, J.S. New, founded the church some four decades ago.
Bell has not been charged with New’s murder — he is merely a person of interest. But a warrant for Bell’s arrest has been issued for the felony theft of New’s vehicle, which turned up last Friday in Indianapolis, according to the Indianapolis Metro Police Department.
Bell is also being sought in connection to a New Castle, Ind., strangulation assault.
“I heard he hurt a woman in Indiana, but I don’t know any details,” Branscum said of her nephew. “I pray he gets caught soon.”
Bell shot and killed his father, 49-year-old Roger Bell, in the Murl Community of Wayne County on March 1, 1999. Bell, then 22, was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and spent seven years of a 15-year sentence in prison. He was paroled in 2005, but went back to prison in April 2008 for violating the terms of his parole. He served until October 1, 2012.
“Dwight was on drugs. He and my brother (Roger Bell) argued and Dwight shot him,” Branscum recalled. “He would call from prison. When he got out, he came by the house and asked for my forgiveness.”
Branscum said she tried to help her nephew, but he got increasingly unstable in the years following his release from jail.
Branscum said Bell was often homeless and that he learned “good people want to help those in need. So he took advantage.”
“I know he went to churches in Monticello to get help,” Branscum said. “He did have a way of being nice and sorrowful.”
Somerset Police has not disclosed whether or not Bell was known at Denham Street Baptist Church,
Branscum noted that Bell had a sister who lived in Indiana. “I called her and she said she hadn’t heard from Dwight,” Branscum said.
“I am so sad this happened (to New),” Branscum said. “Especially in her church. How evil.
“I am not staying alone until he’s caught ... and I hope that’s soon.”