Posted May 31, 2001 | comments Leave a comment

Bell sentenced to death

By Kevin Killen -- Daily Staff Writer

Ricky L. Timbrook's father, Richard Timbrook, let out an audible "yes" and pumped his fist Wednesday as convicted murderer Edward N. Bell was sentenced to death by Circuit Court Judge Dennis L. Hupp.

The sentence was followed by more exclamations of "yes" and "finally" by police officers and family members who made up much of the crowded Winchester courtroom.

Ricky Timbrook, a Winchester police sergeant, was gunned down by Bell in October 1999 following a foot chase down an alley on Piccadilly Street. Bell was convicted of capital murder in January.

Before handing down the death sentence, Hupp also sentenced Bell to three years for using a firearm in the commission of murder, five years for possessing a firearm while possessing cocaine and 10 years for possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. A $5,000 fine also was levied for a charge of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.

Hupp read from a prepared statement - which he said he had been working on throughout much of the proceedings and finished during a recess - before sentencing Bell to death.

In the statement, Hupp called Bell a "dangerous man" who has used "threats and intimidation" to get what he wants. "In reviewing this decision, we start with the fact that you were a drug dealer armed with a gun," Hupp said. "That poses a very real danger to the community. That, in and of itself, is dangerous."

Hupp added that he would be "callous and unkind" if he did not consider the feelings and sense of loss Bell's family will experience.

"Mr. Bell's parents also face the loss of a son, and they too can be considered victims of his criminal wrongdoing," Hupp said.

Timbrook's widow, Kelly, and her sister, Wendy Wisecarver, hugged after the sentencing, rejoicing with family and friends, and receiving pats on the back from Timbrook's fellow officers.

Earlier in the proceedings, several people took the stand to give victim impact statements, including three police officers who had worked with Timbrook.

However, it was Wisecarver's testimony that brought the crowded courtroom to tears with her recollection of the night of Timbrook's death.

She testified that she vividly remembered her sister's reaction to the news of her husband's death by grabbing her stomach, and falling to the floor. "Before she did that, she let out a really loud scream," Wisecarver said. "We couldn't believe Ricky was gone," she said through tears.

Wisecarver's father, Jerry, testified before his daughter that he and Ricky were "the best of friends" and he was the "kind of son-in-law you always hoped for."

He said Timbrook liked to joke around and make people laugh. "If he wasn't a police officer, he would have been a comedian," Jerry Wisecarver said.

Bell's lead attorney, Jud A. Fischel, argued that his client should not be put to death, but rather serve his sentence in prison.

Fischel said he was not taking anything away from the outpouring of emotions from the victims when he told Hupp the impact statements are "a way to tug at your emotions." Also, the death penalty is way to extract vengeance, Fischel said.

"Executing my client is not going to bring closure to this," Fischel said. "Having my client in a cell for 23 hours a day for the rest of his life is punishment enough."

Hupp also denied Fischel's motion to set aside the verdict or to re-impanel the jury. He said that the reason for denying the motion was because he felt the jury had been properly instructed before its deliberations.

Bell, 36, dressed in brown clothes, sat through the proceedings stone-faced, staring straight ahead. Before taking a short recess prior to the sentencing, Hupp asked Bell if he had anything to say.

"Yes. I would like to say Paul Thomson is the one who's guilty, because he doesn't like Jamaicans, and he has said this," Bell replied.

"Is that all you have to say?" Hupp asked.

"Yes," Bell said, before being led away by deputies.

As people were filing out of the courtroom afterward, Bell's sister couldn't hold back the tears for her brother, and was comforted by other family members, including Bell's 64-year-old father Oswald, a Jamaican immigrant who also was crying.

Bell was sentenced to be executed on Aug. 30, and will be transferred from the CFW Regional Jail to the penitentiary in Sussex to await his execution.

Fischel said he is planning to file an appeal today with the Virginia Supreme Court to overturn Hupp's decision. When asked if he was surprised at the outcome of the sentencing, Fischel said no.

"I am not surprised at the sentence, but am surprised at the verdict," he said.

Winchester Commonwealth's Attorney Paul H. Thomson, who held a press conference on the courthouse steps after the sentencing, said there is a sense of relief that the Bell case is finally concluded.

"It was a very emotional time for everyone involved," he said. "Now, maybe there will be some closure for everyone."

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