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Posted May 13, 2008 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Family and friends react to high court’s decision to intervene

By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

Photo:40772,right; WINCHESTER — When all is said and done at the U.S. Supreme Court, the case of Edward N. Bell v. Loretta K. Kelly may create important case law that could affect hundreds of capital cases for years to come.

But in the short term, the high court’s reprieve for Edward N. Bell has a real, almost tangible impact on the two groups of people brought together by a murder nearly a decade ago.

Timbrook left behind a wife who was pregnant with their first child, as well as parents and other family members who have followed the case closely, going from hearing to hearing as they wait to see justice done.

Meanwhile, Bell himself left his children, family and friends on the outside when he was sent to death row in Waverly. Since he was convicted in 2001 they have been waiting and watching for some hope that he won’t be put to death.

Among those family members was Joanne Nicholson, the grandmother of three of Bell’s children. She lived with Bell for a time before the 1999 murder.

The relief in her voice was obvious on Monday, even as she gave a statement Bell’s legal team provided and asked her to read.

“We are very pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear Edward’s case,” she said. “We’ve been told that this is something that doesn’t happen every day. It’s very rare.”

At one point in early April, Nicholson had gone so far as to begin the grim task of making arrangements to have Bell’s body returned to Winchester for a funeral following his April 8 date with the executioner’s needle.

Now, with the high court’s intervention, both she and Bell’s children will be able to visit with him several more times at a bare minimum.

Both sides will brief the case over the summer in preparation for oral arguments in Washington sometime after the court’s 2008 term begins on Oct. 6.

Intervention by at least four of the nine justices on the court should give others pause, she added.

“Although this will be disappointing to others, it should make people think really hard that, if the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to listen, then maybe others should, too,” Nicholson said.

Winchester Sheriff Leonard W. “Lenny” Millholland was among those left disappointed by the court’s decision.

Millholland, who worked on the Winchester police force with Timbrook and helped investigate the murder, had not been told about the court’s action when reached for comment early Monday afternoon.

“You’re kidding me, right?” he asked. The resignation in his voice was audible.

“It’s just another one of those things,” he said. “I just feel sorry for the Timbrook family.”

He and others have been here before, though. When Gov. Timothy M. Kaine issued a stay on April 1 — an action that drew a stinging rebuke for Kaine from Timbrook’s father, Richard — he gave a nearly identical answer.

“It’s got to run its course,” he said Monday. But he added there’s a limit to how long the public will wait for justice.

“At some point in time, legislature, society and everything else is going to get tired of the length of time, and someone is going to step up and say ... the process needs to change,” he said.

* Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com





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