King Edward Bell
He killed six people, including his wife, his mother-in-law, and his four small children
By Michael Jesse
No one seemed to have known him well, but co-workers and acquaintances described King Edward Bell as a religious man who spent his idle time reading the Bible.
If so, he may have overlooked some important scriptures about not killing because on Aug. 21, 1981 he shot six people to death, including his four children and his wife, Bertha Mae.
“King” was his legal first name, and he'd passed on the name to his oldest son as well. But King Jr. didn’t live past age five because his father shot him in the head. There were three other children, all younger, and their father shot them all and then wrote above their bodies on the bedroom wall, “Jesus take these children.”
That was about two in the morning, and then King Edward Bell went looking for his wife. They were separated and Bertha Mae Bell had started seeing another man, and that's who Bell found first. Clarence Barnett, 51, lived at the YMCA at 750 W. 10th Street. He tried to get away in his car, but Bell blew out his windshield with a shotgun. Police found Barnett slumped over his steering wheel, but he lived.
No one else did that night.
Next Bell drove to the home of his wife’s mother, Mary Alice Kirby, 54, in the 3200 block of Sutherland Avenue, and he pulled into the parking lot of the Crossroads Rehabilitation Center next door. His wife, Bertha Mae, came out of the house to confront him and he shot her several times. Then he went inside the house and killed his mother-in-law in her dining room, and came outside and shot Bertha Mae again.
When the police came, Bell put down his gun and didn’t resist as they handcuffed him, but he kept asking them, “why didn’t you kill me?”
A police officer at the scene told The Star he doubted King really meant what he said because “if he had wanted to die he could have pointed the shotgun at one of us and that’s all it would have taken.”
The day after his arrest, Bell told a judge he wanted to be executed, but when the time came he avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty but mentally ill (a charge that had been created by the Legislature just a few years earlier because of another madman, Tony Kiritsis).
Bell was sentenced to 160 years in prison, and was five years into it when in 1987 he put his head in a plastic bag and suffocated himself in his bunk at the Indiana State Prison. He had his blanket pulled up over his head, and it took two or three days for the guards to notice he was dead.