A Lunatic in Disguise Among the Sane


How does someone who had three sisters and one brother, and who had married and divorced, but still have one child, turn out to be a murdering, sadistic, lunatic?  I have no idea.

In 1985 it did cost two people their lives, and untold torture to the families of those two murdered girls, Sharon “Shari” Faye Smith, 17, and Debra May Helmick, 9, torture beyond the murders themselves.

Larry Gene Bell was the perpetrator in South Carolina.  ID TV had a program about it. I’m not sure of the town, perhaps Rock Hill, South Carolina.

The only good thing I can say about Larry Gene Bell is that he is dead. Executed. Electrocuted. 1996. Eleven years after the murders. Too long for someone to live who had done what he did. Neither Shari nor Debra got one day beyond the day they were murdered.

Larry Gene Bell kidnapped Shari at the end of a long driveway to her house when she stopped to check the mail. He killed her. He called the Smith family to tell them where Shari’s body was.

He kidnapped Debra in daylight, apparently from a park, killed her, and called her family to tell them where the body was.

Then he turned around and started calling the Smith family to harass them, particularly Dawn Smith, Shari’s sister. Larry Gene Bell promised that he would kidnap her next.

Dawn went through that torture it seems to try and give the FBI long enough to trace the call. They did, but he was gone when they got there, finding the public pay phone hanging and dangling down, as though he wanted the FBI to think they had only missed him by a few seconds. I’m sure with his sadistic mind he only wanted to add to the drama and was long gone before the FBI was even close. He made several calls to the Smith family, always wanting to talk to Dawn.

There was no mention that he called the Helmick family after the call where he told them the location of the body, but with someone of the mind he had, I would not have been surprised to find him harassing them as well.

As a matter of note, Dawn went on in 1986 to become Miss South Carolina in the Miss America Pageant, one of the most courageous things I have heard of anyone doing in view of the threats that Larry Gene Bell had made. You can protect someone most of the time, but there can be that one unguarded moment that someone can strike, and………………………..

Larry Gene Bell who seemed to regard himself as much smarter than the local police and the FBI did make a mistake. He had Shari write what Larry Gene Bell insisted on her calling “The Last Will and Testament” and mailed that to the Smith family.

The sheet of paper came from a pad of paper he kept to write on. There had been a sheet of paper on top of that with a phone number in Alabama that had been written on it. Using some highly technical equipment in the electrostatic field, the FBI agents were able to determine all but the last digit of the phone number.

The phone belonged to a soldier in Alabama, and that was traced back to his elderly parents in South Carolina. When the FBI went to talk to them the name Larry Gene Bell came up. The older gentleman was an electrician, and Larry Gene Bell, an electrician by trade himself, had done some work for him.  Larry Gene Bell had also house sat for them when they went on vacation, and the soldier’s number written on the piece of paper was a backup number in case Larry Gene Bell experienced an emergency involving the older couple’s home, and could not immediately locate them.

In court Larry Gene Bell acted insane at times with religious shoutings, and other mental mind-bending recitations, but the jury sat course early on and never wavered with their guilty verdict which sent him to death row.

Sometimes a murderer doesn’t stop to think that if they have a slight sliver of normalcy in the courtroom, that leads the jury to believe that he had to have sense enough to know he was acting insane, which is totally counter to everything he had planned.

Larry Gene Bell was also suspected in the disappearance of two young women, one in 1975, and the other in 1984. Their bodies were never found, and Larry Gene Bell was never prosecuted for either of those.

Had it been me, and I had been the warden when he was in prison. I would have taken him down to the electrocution room, and fried him only slightly to extract from him where those two women were. Naturally Larry Gene Bell would have called some civil liberties agency to tell them of the torture. As warden I would have said you just can’t trust these prisoners. They will do anything to gain attention, including singeing their hair and doing something to turn their toenails black. Come back later for the execution.

Shari would have been 48 today, without a birthday in this New Year. Probably married, with kids and grandkids.  No telling what she would have accomplished in life beyond that.  The same for Debra, who would have been 40.

Two lives, two important lives, they weren’t allowed beyond youth because of one scumbag who crossed their lives. There’s the old axiom of life is not fair. Sometimes it seems unfairer than at other times, and that my readers, is not my imagination.

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