4 October1996 – Larry Gene Bell

Larry Gene Bell

Larry Gene Bell

Today is given over to one particularly unsavoury character, who was convinced he was Jesus Christ up to the day he died.

His name is Larry Gene Bell and the American was sent to his death for murdering the sister of a former beauty queen hailing from South Carolina, among others.

28 days later

His evil activities spanned a mere 28 days and in that time, he did enough to earn the lurid title of serial killer in many people’s eyes. He would kidnap his intended prey, then rape them and ultimately kill them by suffocating them.

He was caught not a moment too soon, especially as he’d already managed to bag three victims, plus he had the assault of another victim, Dale Sauls, under his belt.

Bell’s angels

Bell was found guilty in 1987 of murdering his youngest victim Debra May Helmick, who was just nine and 17-year-old Shari Smith, who was the sister of Miss South Carolina, Dawn Smith Jordan.

In a cruel twist he even forced Smith to write her own will, which he promptly posted to her family before haranguing them with torturous phone calls about their beloved girl.

Poignantly, the girl wrote with a sense of foreboding as if she knew she was going to die:
‘I know y’all love me and will miss me very much but if you stick together like we always did – y’all can do it!’

She went on to ask that the casket be closed, ominously, in case something happened to her. And it did. Five days after she had first disappeared, Bell gave the family a bell and told them where the body was.

Bodies of evidence

Sure enough, they located the body and, according to Rita Y Shuler in her book ‘Murder in the Midlands’, she’d already begun to decompose due to extreme temperatures and the fact that she’d been dead a few days – probably killed the day after she’d first been abducted. Debra May Helmick was to follow.

So how was he caught?

Lucky numbers

Ironically it was Smith’s last will and testament that held the key to the perpetrator’s identity. According to ‘Palmeto Predators’ by Mark R Jones, the writing paper was put through an Esta machine, which threw up the imprint of some numbers. These numbers were matched to a phone number, which led the police straight to an address where Bell had been house-sitting.

The murderer was hauled in for questioning and the sheriff commented that ‘it was like a whitewash came over his face’. That was just 28 days after he’d started committing the crimes.

From then on it was a rollercoaster to trial just five months later. His initial trial was halted because there had been seriously bad publicity surrounding the gruesome activities, naturally. It was felt that this local publicity would have thwarted any hopes of a fair trial.

Two new trials kicked off elsewhere in January 1986 – one for Smith and one for Helmick and the jury in the former trial took a mere 12 minutes to send him down.

Hell’s for Bell

Naturally, the killer, who’d already proven how elusive he could be, began his spate of appeals, pleading the Sixth Amendment – ie he asserted that he’d been denied effective legal counsel – as well as being incompetent to stand trial, among other things. But his bid to diss his legal representation was rejected, as were all the other claims.

With all hopes of reprieve dashed, this left him with one decision: how to die.

Given the unenviable choice of lethal injection and the chair, 46-year-old Bell opted to be fried and ended his days in the fiery clutches of South Carolina’s Old Sparky.

Also on this day

4 October 1843 – Alan Mair

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28 Responses to “4 October1996 – Larry Gene Bell”

  1. I knew the guy back when he lived in Charlotte and worked at Eastern Airlines. It was so surreal when I found out about these murders.

    • Rita Rules Says:

      When I recently saw the TV show, Snapped, which detailed the murders by Larry Gene Bell, it took me back to when I also worked in Charlotte for EAL.

      As a new agent, I was assigned to Larry Gene Bell for training. He was very helpful and even tempered. I thought so much of him that I introduced my then 12 year old daughter to him.

      The above does, I believe, show that there are those among us who may appear to be good & kind – but who hide a very evil personality.

  2. Tigas Burat Says:

    I have zero compassion with murderers. Execute them all!! Show no mercy!!

  3. Michelle Says:

    Shari Smith’s old home is still located in front of my high school (White Knoll) and which everytime my mom would pass theyre house to school, she would say a little prayer for the family. My mother grew up with Shari, where they attended Airport high together, and 4-H… and its horrible to think about someone you know very well, to just… not be here anymore.

    God Bless the families.

  4. andrew johnston Says:

    i was that girl’s cuz the little helmick girl that man did a real bad thing’s to them girl he is right were he need’s to be i never got to meet my cuz because of him

  5. Alex L Says:

    I’m from the UK and the title of the movie this side of the pond is Victim Of Beauty, I believe its Nightmare in Columbia County in the U.S Anyway i saw the movie when i was young and still own it on video today and recently bought The rose of Shari and 28 Days of terror (books). Its obvios to me that Bell was not mentally ill, as after the murder he shaved his beard to alter his appearence, not something a non-rational thinking person would do, as well as only giving the details of the victims location many days after he had left them outdoors in a heat wave. He ‘developed’ mentall illness and his opinion that he was Jesus only after being caught. Anyway my question is this, i have read on a few websites that Bell was a suspect in at least one other dissapearence, does anyone know any of the details and do you think he did it? As bell’s M.O was to contact his victims families by phone and mail as he craved attention.

    • Ben Clanton Says:

      Just found an article while looking up another case in Charlotte NC LGB lived near another victim, Denise Porch, who disappeared on 7/31/75. I looked up George King Cutter on google and found murders in Charlotte which got me to this info. I met this creep around 1979 when my neighbor, a very attractive lady he worked with at Eastern Airlines introduced me to him and we looked at this Jeep Wagoneer he had got my attention. Weird in that I never heard from her after helping she and her sister move shortly thereafter……….Ben

      • Alex L Says:

        Thank you. There is another dissapearence in which the prime suspect is Bell, that of a young girl called Sandee Cornett who vanished in 1984. Bell was living a few hundred yeards away at the time, and worked with Miss Cornett’s husband. She has never been found to this day and allthough there is no factual evidence to connect Bell to her dissapearence, i thik its safe to asume he kidnapped and murdered her. He made references to police about Sandee but stopped short of confessing, saying he knew what info he had given through visions from God.

      • Julia Says:

        Ben,
        You met Larry Bell? What year? What year and color was his wagoner? Did he wear a uniform? Color? Could he be a
        suspect in Eva Debrulh’s disappearance in 1977 from Catawba, SC?

  6. scotty Says:

    I remember this summer like it was yesterday. Parents were afraid to let their children outside in fear of this madman. While it was only two victime Both Richland County and Lexington county where in fear. The younger girl used to ride the bus with me it was hard to think of someo ne your own age having this happen.

    • Jennifer from Kershaw. Sc I remember this day as well when Larry Gene Bell kidnapped Shari, and that he was making his way thru the carolinas, I live in this little town and the cops went around all the neighborhood and thru loud speakers everyone go inside and lock up and dont answer the door if u dont know who it is.. Shortly after that he was caught,, but that whole summer I was so afraid of him,today it brings cold chills to me to look at his pics.

  7. Colby Says:

    She was my fifth cousin, and i hope bell felt every bit of the chair as he was electrocuted to death.

  8. Colonel Says:

    I worked for the South Carolina Dept. of Corrections before I retired. While he was on Death Row, he sometimes would yell at the Female Correctional Officers and tell them they looked just like the little girl he killed. He would often talk about how strong he was and the Real Man he was according to himself. But on the way to the Death Chamber for his Death Sentence to be carried out by sitting in the Electric Chair and being electrocuted, that Real Man all of a sudden began crying like a Baby. Officers had to actually pick him up from the floor where he had dropped himself on, and carry him to the Electric Chair.

    • Twist Says:

      that’s the way it goes. perhaps damage was done really early on to Larry Bell.
      Ted Bundy also became a simpering sap on the way to the chair…this is just after telling a Psychologist how “one more bambi (like does in the field) won’t be missed.”
      Beautiful girls with no choice….Bundy’s stupid a** Doc also suggested Ted Boy stayed around. Beautiful Dears saved, one horror in the grave.

    • Were you still working at the prison at the time of his execution? Or is that what the ‘strap down team’ said Bell was like on his way to ‘ride the lightning.’ In Bell’s case, even though I am against capital punishment, I think it was good to show him for what he was. The way he murdered Shari was horrific and yet, that young 17 year old girl wrote such a beautiful, touching letter saying goodbye to her family. In that situation, facing what she knew she was about to happen, I am admit without any shame or hesitation that Sheri Smith, the young 17 year old teenage girl, was and is a much stronger, braver and courageous person that I, a 31 year old man, could or would ever be in a similar situation. Heart goes out to her and God bless her now that she’s at peace.

      • James Baker Says:

        Not to be contrary but I doubt that poor Sheri actually accepted she was going to die. Of course she wrote the letter herself as Larry Bell ordered and it was indeed touching but I suspect she rationalized it. By this I mean she likely believed Bell was being sadistic but unlikely to follow though with the act. Sheri was likely playing along to pacify bell, in essence looking for anyway she could barter for escape. If she knew how cold blooded and determined Bell was she would likely have used the pen to stab him in an attempt to escape – after all what would she have to lose. I just don’t accept she wrote this letter in full consideration that she would likely die. The survival instinct in a well adjusted person is just too strong. Bell would of likely used any method to pacify her before he killed her which just makes it more tragic, sadly. I also do not approve of the death penalty but I cannot feel any sympathy for Bell and a darker part of me rejoices in the fact that he suffered a great deal more than taking a lethal injection.

  9. rocks Says:

    I feel real sorry for the victims and deep sympathy for their families.May their souls rest in peace. As for the monster, by being electrocuted he has just received a one way ticket to hell.

  10. Alex L Says:

    Ironic that his chosen profession was the very thing that ended up taking his life. The electrician ended up bein electrocuted. Poetic Justice?

  11. Songre Says:

    These guys are monsters! I always wonder why the cops let these guys die with their sins of the past. I am sure this guy killed other people it’s a pattern they have and they just get away with it. Just like the case with Dawn Marie Birnbaum that case still hunts me to this day, it was such an awful case. The guy Robert Cruz Jr. is sitting in prison and he killed so many young women and up to this day he never said a word. That must change in America you must talk about what you have done so families can get some peace of mind it is the only way. The families my heart just goes out to them it is so painful for a non family member much less victims family. Keep on praying guys and God bless America.

    • Well actually Law Enforcement were speaking to Ted Bundy rite up to around an hour or so before his appointment with the Chair. He had told the detective’s a day or so before he was to die that if he had more time he’d be able to disclose where certain bodies may be located and named one or two missing girls names as far as I am aware. Credit to Law Enforcement, they went and spoke with the families of the missing girls Bundy had mentioned. The families both had a heart breaking choice to make, appeal to have Bundy’s execution stayed (with no guarantee at all Bundy will give their loved ones bodies over to them, or to not allow Bundy to use their daughters as a bargaining chip to avoid the chair for another week or so. They decided that Bundy has 24 hours left to clear his conscience if he intended to tell them where their loved ones were, and they would not ask for a stay of execution. Bundy did go on to confess to murdering other women just before his execution, but no locations were disclosed. He, just like Bell, was dragged to the electric chair, strapped in, and the switch was thrown and both took their secrets with them. That, for me, is one of the most evil, heartless and selfish things any one human could do to another.

  12. An enjoyable read. I actually have some more ideas about this. Do you accept guest articles on your blog?…

    [...]4 October1996 – Larry Gene Bell « Execution of the day[...]…

    • Old Sparky Says:

      It depends what you want to write about. But if it’s related to any of the topics or previous posts there’s a good chance we’ll run it.

  13. Leslie DeArmond Says:

    My father, Larry DeArmond, worked at Eastern with Larry Bell. They became friends and Larry Bell was invited over to our house in S. Charlotte for dinner. I was only about 7 or 8. I can’t really remember much of it however I do remember his face and how odd he was. He acted very weird towards me and my bestfriend. We played in our den and he would watch us and said things that to a little girl would make her feel good. Things like “my you sure are a beautiful little girl” and “I would like to have somone like you to play with”. He was arrested within either days or a couple of weeks of having dinner at our house or at least that is what my father told me. I remember my father getting all hysterical when it broke on the news. Dad was yelling “oh my god he was just here in our house. “Oh my god we could have been killed, you (talking to me) could have been killed”.
    Dad passed away 11 years ago and always talked about Larry Gene Bell having dinner in our house yet I just never paid it that much attention. I guess it was becasue I was so young at the time and never really knew what Larry Bell did. Our local radio station did a show this morning on serial killers and I remembered Larry Bell. I had not thought about that name in years. I decided to google him. I was shocked when I saw his face. I remember it so well. I sure wish my dad was alive so I could ask him questions. I would love to know how well my dad knew him, did they do other things together, why was he at our house for dinner and just have a ton of questions that I will never have answers to.

    • Catwoman Says:

      Wow, that’s interesting, Leslie. You had dinner with a serial killer. While I don’t think Bell would have harmed his friend’s children, you never know… He was definitely a bad seed.

    • Twist Says:

      If your siblings or mom remember him or unusual behavior that would bring some of this to light. The FBI / SLED profile is a man with no/few friends….yet on the night he abducted Miss Smith he canceled dinner plans.
      any comments your family has may shed light on how this happens ['normal' people who are nothing but..]

  14. No question LGB killed Sandee Cornett. She dated a friend of mine who worked with LGB at Eastern Airlines, so they knew each other. I met LGB at a party at my friends house in 1979. I believe he was the one who made obscene phone calls to me around that time when I was living in my parents’ home. I get the chills every time I think how easily it could have been me. I had very long blond hair at the time. Sandee was a brunette.

  15. Miranda S Says:

    My aunt was best friend with Sherri. She got taken from her mailbox after school one day. The sickest thing is that he let her write her family a letter saying she loved them and she was going to heaven soon because he was going to kill her. My aunt said she will never forget his face. Sad.

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