5 Dead After Gunman Opens Fire in a Church in Louisiana
By JEREMY ALFORD
Published: May 22, 2006
BATON ROUGE, La., May 21 — A man opened fire inside the Ministry of Jesus
Christ Church here during a Sunday morning service, killing four in-laws and
wounding another before kidnapping his wife and killing her, law enforcement
The man, identified by the police as Anthony Bell of Baton Rouge, also
abducted three of his children, including an infant, as the service was
nearing its end, the police said. The children were later found unharmed.
Mr. Bell, 25, was charged with five counts of first-degree homicide and one
count each of attempted first-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping.
Resting his hands on his knees and shaking his head outside the church, a
small metal-frame structure attached to a guitar shop, Chief Jeff Leduff of
the Baton Rouge Police said: "When you start stacking up human life like
this, it's sad. It's a sad day for the whole city."
Chief Leduff refused to release the names of the dead.
But Jeffery Howard, 47, of Baton Rouge, a church member, said his parents,
Gloria and Leonard Howard, were among the dead.
Mr. Howard identified the suspect's slain wife as Erica Bell and said he was
her godfather. He said the other two people killed were Deloris McGrew, Mr.
Howard's aunt, and Darleen Mills, his cousin. Mr. Howard said the wounded
woman was Claudia Brown, Ms. Bell's mother and the head pastor at the
"He killed some good people," Mr. Howard said as about 50 friends and
relatives spilled out of his family's home into the yard. He added that the
suspect "called my aunt before he did it and told her what he was going to
Mr. Howard said the shootings probably stemmed from domestic problems
between the Bells.
"She was getting on with her life and wanted to keep worshiping and
following God, and he just wanted to run on the streets," Mr. Howard said.
"He was in and out of her life a lot."
He said Mr. Bell had problems keeping a job and often gambled.
Chief Leduff said Ms. Bell's body was found in a parked car at the Ardenwood
Park Apartments, a few miles from the church. Mr. Bell was discovered
nearby, he said, crying and holding the infant, and was taken into custody.
Chief Leduff said the other two children were apparently dropped off at
another residence before Ms. Bell was killed. By evening, the three children
who were abducted were sleeping at the Howard family home.
The church's members are mostly related, Mr. Howard said, and total
membership numbers about 100. At an average Sunday service, 20 people might
be in attendance, he said.
At the apartment complex, residents walked about holding children, swapping
details — from grossly misleading to fairly accurate — and looking to the
back of the parking lot where police officers lingered.
"Ain't nothing like this ever happened out here," said Tina Jones, 33, with
her back to a window displaying a variety of religious regalia. "I mean, I
let my kids play out here all the time."
Chief Leduff said it could take considerable time to confirm everyone's
connections and to determine Mr. Bell's motives.
Mr. Howard said that Ms. Brown's condition was stable and that she was
recovering at a local hospital.