Cape Girardeau man charged with double murder

Sunday, February 10, 2013
A police car sits in front of an apartment building at 401 S. Pacific St. where members of the Cape Girardeau Police Department investigate a fatal shooting Friday. Two people are confirmed dead in the shooting. (Adam Vogler)

An argument between neighbors escalated into a shooting that left two dead Thursday night at a Cape Girardeau apartment building, police said Friday.

Prosecutors charged Kenneth D. Bell Jr., 22, of Cape Girardeau, with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action Friday. A first-degree murder charge is applicable when prosecutors believe someone "knowingly" causes a death after deliberation.

Officers found Shannon D. James, 43, and Misty D. Cole, 39, dead from multiple gunshot wounds, Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton said. Autopsies were performed Friday afternoon in Farmington, Mo., Clifton said Saturday, though results weren't expected for up to a month.

Kenneth Bell

Police responded Thursday night to an apartment building at 401 S. Pacific St. after a caller reported hearing gunshots and a man running from the area, according to police Sgt. Don Perry's probable-cause statement. Much of what happened that night seems to have taken place on the first floor -- police found the victims, already dead, in one unit and some potentially damning evidence in another rented by Bell.

A witness identified Bell as the gunman in a photo lineup, Perry said in the charging document. The witness also said he saw Bell and James get into an argument shortly before the shooting. James and the witness had been walking along Bloomfield Road, the witness said, when they happened upon Bell and the two engaged in a "verbal altercation." The police statement never explains what the argument was about.

The witness told police the next time he saw Bell, Bell had a gun. James was attempting to open his apartment door when the witness saw Bell coming from the rear of the building. Before he heard gunfire, the witness opened a door of the building and ran.

As he ran, the witness later told police, he heard two bursts of gunfire separated by a pause of several seconds.

Police said they found a handgun on top of a building that sits adjacent to the apartments. Perry, in his statement, said it matches the weapon the witness described, still loaded with one live round in the chamber and others in the magazine. Two open boxes of ammunition, scattered shells and an empty pistol holster were found in Bell's apartment and taken into evidence, Perry said.

Bell was taken into custody Thursday night when police responded to the area and found Bell hiding in an alleyway. Bell tried to run, police said, but he was apprehended after a brief foot chase.

Other officers found the two victims dead in the apartment, Cole lying in the open doorway and James just inside the door, not 10 feet away. Medical personnel were called to attend to the two, police said, but the two were declared dead by Clifton.

Police spokesman Darin Hickey on Friday said the relationship between James and Cole was under investigation. Hickey said police were not yet ready to provide additional details about the victims.

Bell has had legal troubles before. He had been sentenced to 120 days of shock incarceration in December 2008 for assault in Butler County, then released in April 2009 on probation. Paperwork indicating he had violated his probation was filed in January.

Court records also show Bell was scheduled to appear in court Monday in Cape Girardeau to face charges filed against him in October 2011 for illegally owning a firearm, possessing drug paraphernalia and operating a vehicle without a valid license. Bell remained is in custody at the Cape Girardeau County Jail on Saturday night in lieu of $2.5 million bond.

Bell is to be arraigned Monday at 11 a.m. before Judge Gary Kamp in Jackson. Prosecutors have not indicated whether they might seek the death penalty.

The victims mark the first to die by gunfire in Cape Girardeau County this year, and they were the most recent since the Dec. 16 shooting of Nicholas Gilbert.

The Cape Girardeau/Bollinger County Major Case Squad, a multi-jurisdictional team of police officers, was activated to work the case.

The investigation continued well into the early morning hours Friday. But the area was quiet again by Saturday. The yellow tape that had encircled the building had been removed and the half-dozen police cars that had blocked traffic were gone.

A man who identified himself only as the building's owner was seen going into the building Saturday afternoon, but he declined to comment.

"I'm just trying to get the place cleaned up," he said. "I really don't want to talk about it."

A check of Southeast Missourian archives showed the Pacific Street apartment building has seen its share of other crimes.

Resident Michael Lynn Temple, 36, was found stabbed to death with a steak knife in his apartment in 1995. Steven S. Shelby, who lived at 203 S. Pacific St., was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with Temple's death. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2005, several of the building's residents were displaced and a family living there lost its dog in a fire determined to be arson. As a result of the incident, Anthony R. Williams of Cape Girardeau was handed a seven-year prison sentence.

Two other incidents have a connection with the address but did not happen there. Debra Manning, who lived in the building, was murdered in 1983. She was found stabbed on Cape Girardeau County Road 249 northeast of Delta. The case never was solved. In 2006, a Cape Girardeau cabdriver who lived in the building was charged with felony sexual assault but charges were dropped after police uncovered evidence that invalidated the victim's accusation.

Managing editor Matt Sanders contributed to this report.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address;

401 S. Pacific St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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