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Posted May 12, 2008 | comments Leave a comment

Edward N. Bell’s family speaks out to share the other side

Joanne Nicholson
Joanne Nicholson, of Winchester, answers questions about Edward N. Bell, who fathered children with her daughter. Alan Lehman/Daily

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Joanne Nicholson, grandmother of three of Edward Bell's children, talks with Daily staff writer Garren Shipley about Bell (Quicktime video):
Video provided by Bell's attorneys, shot in Jamaica (Quicktime video):




Timbrook Community Park
Light from Timbrook Community Park and the Timbrook Public Safety Center brightens the western end of Woolen Mill Lane beyond a man loitering on a recent night. Winchester Police Sgt. Ricky Lee Timbrook chased Edward Bell down this dark alley moments before Bell turned and fatally shot Timbrook in 1999. Alan Lehman/Daily

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about the 1999 slaying of a Winchester police officer and the man awaiting execution for the crime on Virginia’s death row.

By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- Virginia law might require that Edward N. Bell die for the murder of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook, but taking another life will do nothing but create more suffering, according to the killer’s family.

Joanne Nicholson, of Winchester, shared a home with Bell for years, and has been helping to raise three of his children since his trial in 2001. She and other members of the family have largely remained silent since then.

But as Bell’s appeals run out and his July 24 execution date approaches, they want the public to hear the other side of the story that began in October 1999.

“It’s hard when everyone is saying that ‘we aren’t hurting,’” Nicholson wrote in an e-mail following an interview. “Yes, we have not felt the loss of Edward, and we know the Timbrooks would love to have just a little bit with their son that we have with Eddie.”

“But to say we do not hurt is not the truth. A mother, a father, children that love Eddie are hurting because of this,” she wrote. “He is not gone. There is no way to compare this with the loss that the Timbrooks have faced, but there will come a day when his family and children will hurt like they are hurting.

“We understand they want Eddie’s life taken, but even though Eddie will be gone, there will be his family and children who will go through the same thing as they are going through.”

Timbrook’s widow, Kelly Timbrook, has declined repeated requests for interviews.

•••

If the commonwealth is to be believed, Bell was a social misfit long before he came to the U.S., slowly winding his way toward a life of incarceration before he ever met Timbrook.

They draw a picture of Bell as a “mama’s boy” who would never take responsibility for his own actions, choosing instead to blame others for his failures, running away whenever things got tough.

But the people who know and love him say that’s not the Edward Bell they saw every day.

Some of Nicholson’s fondest memories of the man she thinks of as a son are of holidays, “Eddie’s favorite holidays, 4th of July and Christmas,” she wrote.

“Eddie loved bright lights. He love the fireworks on the 4th of July. He was like a kid, always wanting to see them high in the air.”

Fireworks were a family affair.

“He would push the stroller with the two kids in it and the baby in his little pouch attached to Eddie’s stomach to the corner of our street where he could see the fireworks from the park high in the sky,” Nicholson wrote. “It was amazing to see the twinkle in his eyes as if he were seeing them for the first time.”

The lights of Christmas were no different.

“He loved to decorate. He would put lights all over the outside and then on the inside,” Nicholson wrote. “It was not a nice sight on the inside with lights strung all along the ceiling, around mirrors, etc., but we let him do it because he loved the lights.”

•••

It might seem a bit out of character, but the man from Jamaica was also a Glen Campbell fan, belting out “Rhinestone Cowboy” for an older stepdaughter in a blush-inducing fashion.

“He would sing old country and 70’s songs to the kids at night,” Nicholson wrote. “Although they were very young he would do this. He has an older stepdaughter and he would sing to her and make her blush and hold her tight while he did this.” Making the kids smile — and taking care of them — was a big part of Eddie Bell’s nature, she said.

“He took care of her as if she was one of his own,” Nicholson wrote.

Instances of caring are among the first memories Nicholson has of Bell.

“I remember when first met Eddie as a friend of the family. His current girlfriend in [West Virginia] had just gave birth to his daughter and she was premature,” she wrote. “He stayed at that hospital. He worried so much.”

Bell loved to spend time with his kids, even if it meant doing something he wasn’t fond of doing.

“We would go camping. Eddie did not care [too] much for sleeping in tents with all the bugs but he loved the campfire and fishing. He would take his stepdaughter who was around 6 or 7 at the time and they would go down to the creek and catch crawfish,” she wrote.

“They would take them home and clean them up and boil them. He really bonded with her.”

Bell “had a close relationship with all his kids,” she wrote. “He would talk to his child over in Jamaica and send her money for school and things she wanted.

“He would get his daughter that live in [West Virginia] on the weekends so that she could know her young brothers and sisters,” Nicholson said. “When his first son was born in 1997, he was so proud. We would ‘pretend’ and ‘joke’ with each other that one of us got to feed him next, or hold him.

“He always made sure that they had plenty formula, Pampers, etc. before he left out of the house for the day.”

When prosecutors and, later, Virginia’s attorney general’s office cast Bell as a loud, drug-dealing felon just waiting to be deported back to Jamaica, they simply weren’t telling the truth, according to Nicholson.

“In court there was a remark about rap songs and a phrase he used in reference to Timbrook,” she said.

Prosecutors submitted testimony that Bell told a friend “Someone needs to bust a cap in his ass,” according to court records.

“It was a lie. I mean, we were not there but Eddie really did not care for or listen to rap music. If it wasn’t reggae, old country or ’70s he really did not care for it,” Nicholson said.

Bell did like to go to the racetrack in Charles Town, but it didn’t have anything to do with dealing drugs, as prosecutors and the attorney general’s office have suggested, she said.

“He loved the racetrack. He had met a lot of people there and hung out with the jockeys,” she said. “He just liked the thrill of the race. He would take his son with him to see the horses and meet the jockeys he knew.”

•••

Violence wasn’t in Bell’s nature, according to Carl Downie, a friend of Bell’s from Jamaica.

“He’s my good friend, we go to school together, we work together, we share together everything,” he said, speaking in a video recorded for, but never admitted to, the U.S. District Court in Abingdon as part of Bell’s habeas corpus proceeding.

The two shared a home briefly while working on a construction site in Jamaica.

“I never seen him really fighting,” Downie said. “Maybe a little fuss or something like that.”

Nor was Bell the armed man with a bad attitude that prosecutors alleged. Downie said the only time Bell would carry a weapon was a machete when they would go into the woods to cut wood for a cook stove.

“Otherwise not really traveling with a knife or a gun or something like that,” he said.

“The most important thing to know is that he’s a good guy and he doesn’t make trouble,” Downie said.

Carol Anderson also was a roommate of Bell’s before he migrated to the U.S.

Bell agreed to move in with her for a time when she had a job in a bad part of town. He would walk her home at night to see that she didn’t come to harm.

“He’s loving and caring, and he’s someone who really, you know, wants to help at all times. I know that about him,” she said, calling him by his Jamaican nickname, “Slow.”

“I know for a fact, based on my knowing him, I know for sure that you will come out victorious. Without no doubt, I believe that you did not do what they have said you have done,” she said.

Bell’s niece, Barbara Hamilton, shared Anderson’s recollections. Hamilton said she’d tell jury or judges deciding his fate to “let him speak, because he will tell the truth. He’s that kind of person.”

But most of all, “I miss you, Slow. I miss you being there.”

Tomorrow:
The final road for Ed Bell.

* Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com


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