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photo
Officer Randy Bell prepares to take suspect, initially identified as Joseph Bennett, into the house at 709 E Crenshaw St. in Tampa. [Times photo: Ken Helle]
Detective Bell just weeks away from 'dull' job

By RICHARD DANIELSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 1998


TAMPA -- The day he died, Detective Randy Bell was looking forward to a promotion, a party and an end to 20 years of hazardous police work.

Since 1977, he had worked as a patrol officer and detective, arresting burglars, pulling a woman from a burning house and solving some of the most high-profile murders in the city.

And he was still on the rise.

On Monday, the day before Bell and fellow Detective Ricky Childers were killed, police Chief Bennie Holder told Bell he was being transferred to internal affairs. The move was being made, Holder said at a news conference Tuesday, "because of his expertise as an interrogator and investigator."
• Detective hailed as hero, professional, friend

• Among police, 'the world is paralyzed; everybody is crying'

• Trooper had been on job less than year

• Detective Bell just weeks away from 'dull' job

• Carr lived as he died: in violence

• Made-for-TV tragedy unfolded too quickly for live reports

• Caseworkers received allegations of abuse

• Handcuff procedures questioned

The transfer was to take Bell off dangerous duty in two weeks.

"I basically told the chief I needed someone of his experience and his skills," said internal affairs Capt. Jake Slater. "I thought they both were the cream of the crop."

After hearing the transfer news, Bell "was all excited" and colleagues were planning a party, federal prosecutor Karen Cox said. She said she teased Bell that investigating citizen complaints would be dull, but "he was looking forward to going to IA and a change."

Police said Bell, 44, was married and had young children.

"He was so proud of his daughter, who was a cheerleader for the Seahawks," a Little League baseball team, said former prosecutor Lyann Goudie. He liked auto racing and played organized softball.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Bell graduated from Tampa's Robinson High School in 1971 and, after working a variety of non-law enforcement jobs, joined the Police Department as a patrol officer in November 1977.

Within a few years, he had matured into an officer who consistently received outstanding performance reviews. He became a detective in 1985 and was transferred to homicide in 1988.

"He has developed many specialized techniques and works any type of investigation with a minimum amount of supervision," Sgt. George McNamara wrote in Bell's most recent evaluation. He praised Bell's ability to talk to and get information from anyone.

Former Hillsborough County homicide prosecutor Nick Cox took issue with the suspect's assertions in a radio interview that Bell and Childers had called him a liar and confronted him angrily.

"That wasn't their style," Cox said. "I sat in interviews with these guys. They were easygoing. They tried to get things out of people nicely.

Sobbing, Cox said, "it's not supposed to happen to guys like this."

Bell's personnel file is filled with letters of praise and thanks from citizens, prosecutors and other police agencies. In 1980, he received an award of valor for going into a burning house on Bayshore Boulevard and leading a 64-year-old woman to safety.

Bell was the lead detective on the investigation into serial killer Glen Rogers.

Friends described Bell as affable and quiet, with a sardonic sense of humor.

"I loved him," said prosecutor Leland Baldwin. She said he tended to be polite and courteous with defendants -- so much that she asked him about it.

"I remember asking Randy Bell, "How can you be so nice when you realize they committed these crimes?' " Baldwin said. "And he said, "You have to treat people with respect and have people trust you.'

"Randy Bell's word meant something," she said.
-- Times staff writers Sue Carlton and Marty Rosen contributed to this report.

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