Thursday, July 24, 2008

JFP Story on Lawsuit against George Bell, III and Robbie Bell: Whitewash or Bad reporting?

The Jackson Free Press reported the mother of Heather Spencer, Linda Francomb (disclosure: Ms. Francomb has posted on this blog several times) filed a wrongful death action against the Bells on June 2, 2008 in Hinds County Circuit Court.
Unfortunately there are several errors in the story, as well as reporting which is slanted to say the least:
"The previous June, he had attacked Spencer as she slept, attempted to strangle her, and beat her bloody with a mallet before Spencer’s roommate scared him away. That beating resulted in 57 staples in Spencer’s head. Jackson police never arrested Bell for that beating, for reasons not made clear by police documents obtained by the Jackson Free Press.."

The reason for the failure to arrest Mr. Bell for these charges is actually pretty simple. When he was scared away by Heather's roommate, he immediately fled Jackson. He eventually wound up in a drug rehab facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When he returned to Jackson, he killed Heather 48 hours later. Given the time available to JPD and the fact Ms. Bell probably did not tell JPD where George was, it's hard to see how JPD could have arrested Mr. Bell when they had little if any opportunity to do so. However, slamming JPD and Melton fits the JFP template for writing stories as shown in this story. However, the JFP's ignorance does not stop there but continues:

"But the original, felony charge of aggravated domestic assault had already inexplicably been reduced to a misdemeanor by June 12..."

As discussed in an earlier post, "Why were the charges reduced?", it is clear there are several possible answers to the question of why the charges had been reduced. The first is the Bells used their political connections to get the charges against George, III reduced to a misdemeanor. However, several JPD officers told me it was the only way to keep the prosecution against George alive without Heather's consent. If Ms. Mott had bothered to read the law, she would have learned a complaint for aggravated assault requires the consent of the victim for the prosecution to proceed, whereas for simple domestic assault, the victim's wishes are immaterial if the police have strong evidence that such a crime occurred (which JPD did in this case). However, it's easier to fit the facts into the anti-JPD and Melton template than actually learn what the law says.

"But Bell, who allegedly is addicted to cocaine and steroids, fled JPD’s jurisdiction in Spencer’s green Camry, eventually entering a drug program in Oklahoma. ..."

You can't have it both ways: bashing JPD for not arresting him then reporting he fled JDP's "jurisdiction" immediately after beating Heather. "Allegedly"? He admitted to it in open court.

"It’s unclear whether Spencer died immediately from her wounds that night, or whether she lingered, (Ms. Mott, do you read your own archives? see below) although Spencer’s family members have stated that Spencer died many hours after the beating. Allegedly, Robbie Bell’s first call was not to the police or to summon an ambulance but to her friend and lawyer, Tom Royals. George Bell was arrested the next day after holding his mother hostage for several hours at a local gas station. By then, Heather Spencer was dead. Bell pleaded guilty to kidnapping and capital murder charges Feb. 4, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole...."

This is probably the worst paragraph in the whole story. Sources have told me Heather didn't die immediately after the beating by George. One must ask the JFP which story is correct? Its earlier reporting as fact the autopsy showed Heather did not die for several hours, or that it is not clear if she died immediately?

Then there is the question of Robbie's call to Tom Royals. Since this claim has been made, the question must be asked what exactly was said to Mr. Royals. An attorney is required to notify the authorities if he knows a crime is in progress. Did Ms. Bell tell Mr. Royals what had happened that night? If so, why did Mr. Royals not call the police? This is not meant to cast Mr. Royals in a negative light, but the question of what he was told must be asked. This of course begs the question, how could Robbie call Mr. Royals yet not call the police?

This leads to the next flaw in the story. The story makes NO MENTION of George's kidnapping (He pled guilty to the kidnapping charge) of Heather's roommate. He kidnapped the roommate (her identity, while known and public record, will not be revealed in this post) around 7:00 AM and was gone from the Bell home for approximately an hour. At this point Ms. Bell did NOT call the police, 911, or an ambulance. Unfortunately, the JFP story leaves out this information and instead makes the wild claim that George held his mother hostage for "several hours". This is not true as there has been no testimony George restrained or pointed a weapon at his mother or was held hostage. Indeed, when the car pulled up at the gas station and the police car was spotted, Ms. Bell immediately jumped out screaming "he's got a gun!".

The JFP story also ignored another fact, which is that George's uncle, former Hinds County Judge and local attorney James Bell, was at the Bell home that morning. Why exactly was he there? Who contacted Mr. Bell (It should be noted all sources have told me Mr. Bell was the only voice of sanity in this whole ordeal as he was the only one saying things had to stop. I am not questioning his character as I was told he was in shock, which is to be expected.)?

So how could Ms. Bell contact two lawyers, both who are known as members of the Ed Peters crowd, yet not call the police? Especially when she was alone while her son kidnapped the roommate? Why did Ms. Mott fail to mention these facts or ask these questions?

The JFP has treated Ms. Bell with kid gloves in its coverage of this story. In what can only be described as a grotesque example of bad taste, the local alternative weekly named Ms. Bell one of the "Most Intriguing Jacksonians of 2007" in its "Best of" issue. It reported:
"Robbie Bell, once a matriarch of the Jackson business world, is currently awaiting trial for charges connected to her son’s alleged murder of his girlfriend on Sept. 11. Charged with being an accessory after the fact, Bell allegedly did not seek help for Heather Spencer after George Bell III raped and beat Spencer with a flashlight. An autopsy revealed that Spencer did not die for several hours after the attack.
Bell was with her son when he surrendered to police after a four-hour standoff at a Jackson gas station the next morning. Spencer’s body was in her house, which was also the scene of the crime. Authorities charged George Bell III with first-degree murder, rape and assault, the last charge stemming from a beating he gave Spencer in June. Both Bells pleaded not guilty to the respective charges.
Bell is the former vice president of business development for the Mississippi Business Journal, a post she filled until Spencer’s murder; her name no longer appears on the Journal’s Web site. In that role, she organized many high-profile business events in the city, including the Integrity Awards and the Mississippi Leading Business Women awards."

"Intriguing" indeed (It should be noted that one of the co-owner's of the Jackson Free Press, Donna Ladd, was named by Ms. Bell to her list of one of the leading Business Women in Mississippi.). The description of Ms. Bell also states the autopsy showed Heather died several hours after the beating, contradicting Ms. Mott's story. However, naming Robbie Bell "Most Intriguing", even if selected by readers, is one of the more disgusting items I have seen in any publication. The fact it even appeared speaks volumes about the owners of the local alternative weekly.

The Spencers and Ms. Francomb have been through enough hell over the last year and have been subjected to media coverage that has been outrageous to say the least. One can only hope that they will eventually get some justice as well as some answers and fair media coverage.


Anonymous said...

What a shame that the family and friends of Heather Spencer must rely on an alternative news source or blog for accurate information. I can assure you that your diligence to "truth-seeking" will be forever appreciated by all...and you are absolutely right that NONE of this has ever been released to the mainstream public. Why is that? Why has there been no timeline published? Why are there so many unanswered questions? Seems to me that it's been easier to wiggle out of this scenario than it would be some random parking ticket. Why is that? What does it take for a family to get answers? Who do you have to know?

Victims Rights? Criminal Justice? Give me a break. The real hostages here are a failed system. Pray for truth.

Kingfish said...


Look at the Clarion-Ledger story today and see if you can spot the error.

Anonymous said...

Yours has been the best reporting anywhere King on this sad, sad story.

The JFP has treated Ms. Bell with kid gloves in its coverage of this story.

Kid gloves? Hell, the JFP has next to ignored Robbie Bell's actions. It is obvious that Ladd is looking the other way in order to not expose her friend's culpability. She's protecting her own good ol' network no different than she rips other publications for doing the same.

What is most disgusting is that the JFP used this weak effort for one purpose only -- to promote their Chick Ball. Heather's family filed their lawsuit all the way back on June 2nd.

Ladd has just used Heather's death for her own promotional purposes. Ladd is a fraud.

Anonymous said...

She has been doing backflips since Jim Hood became ensnared with the Ed Peters crowd. How does she reconcile her hero with her archenemies?

Anonymous said...

What kind of person sells cocaine to a person fresh out of rehab? Only a lowlife who should be in jail too. Even drug dealers have some standards. Who was this person?

Anonymous said...

Very nice fisking.

As far as why Ms. Mott didn't know what questions to ask, maybe it's because she's been with JFP for such a short time (as are alll reporters except for Adam Lynch) that she has no idea what she is doing. I shudder at the numbers of writers who have had their careers destroyed by association with Ladd and Co.

Kingfish said...

Thats no excuse. Some of it was available in their archives.

Her problems with the reduction of charges could've been solved by interviewing a couple of cops and looking up the actual statutes like I did.

Of course, she could've read my coverage of this story and learned a few things. Nothing like some shameful self promotion. ;-)

and that still doesn't excuse their publishing Ms. Bell as "Most Intriguing". Sickening.

Anonymous said...

There simply is no excuse for not digging deep into the actions of Robbie Bell. Ironic that Ladd and "the boyz" at the "Ledger" are both protecting her.

Kingfish said...

The Clarion-Ledger has rotated this story among five different reporters.

Anonymous said...

Drugs causes a lot of damage to the brain, which in turn makes a person do bad things. Since using drugs can only result to bad things, then avoid using it so that there will be no harm done to others.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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