A woman fatally shot by her husband after authorities said he killed four of her relatives at a church service had gotten a temporary restraining order against him last year. Erica Bell, 24, filed her request in December 2005, citing family violence, The Advocate reported. The restraining order was dismissed the following month at her request, according to court records cited by the newspaper.
Anthony Bell, 25, of Baton Rouge, was charged with murder in the deaths of his wife and her grandparents, great aunt and a cousin, officials said. He also was charged with kidnapping and attempted murder. Authorities said he abducted his wife and three children from the church service; the children were later found unharmed. Bell's mother-in-law, church pastor Claudia Brown, was hospitalized in serious condition, police said. "She's alive and she's expected to survive," Sgt. Don Kelly, a police spokesman, said Monday.
Brown founded the small church and most of its members are relatives. It shares space in an old warehouse with a guitar shop in a nonresidential area of Baton Rouge and is marked with a sign saying, "A family that prays together, stays together." "This is going to be one of the worst days in the history of our city," said Police Chief Jeff LeDuff. "This is senseless. This is a total waste of human life."
The shooting spree at The Ministry of Jesus Christ church began around in the morning as the service was nearing its end, police said. Church members wept as they watched investigators examine evidence and search for clues. Police said the victims were Erica Bell's grandparents, Leonard Howard, 78, and Gloria Howard, 72; her great aunt, Deloris McGrew, 68, and a cousin Darlene Mills, 47.
Hours later, officers responding to an emergency phone call about a shooting at the apartment complex found Erica Bell dead and Anthony Bell holding the baby, Police Chief Jeff LeDuff said. He was arrested without incident. Authorities said neither he nor his wife lived at the complex. Police later said Anthony Bell had called emergency services, reporting that his wife had committed suicide, according to an affidavit.
The other children were apparently dropped off somewhere else before their mother was killed, LeDuff said. It was unclear whether Anthony Bell was the children's father. Brown's brother, Jeffery Howard, told The New York Times that Anthony Bell had been in and out of Erica Bell's life. "She was getting on with her life and wanted to keep worshipping and following God, and he just wanted to run on the streets," he said, reports the AP.
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