Gwinnett County police detectives speak Monday morning with two women connected to the victims of a triple homicide on Anderson Livsey Lane in unincorporated Snellville. A total of four people were shot in the Sunday night incident. (Staff Photo: Tyler Estep)
Robert Bell and his wife moved into the home at 4630 Anderson Livsey Lane about two weeks ago, the result of Angelina Benton's offer to help a couple that had fallen on hard times.
On Sunday night, Gwinnett County police believe Bell repaid the favor by using an assault rifle to kill Benton, her 12-year-old son and 19-year-old godson living at the home. A fourth person, Benton's boyfriend, was shot but survived.
Bell had amicably helped pick Benton up from out of town earlier the same day, police said. He's now on the lam, charged with three counts of felony murder.
"We don't have a good motive," police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said Monday afternoon. "It seemed like everyone was on fairly friendly terms."
Authorities initially responded to Anderson Livsey Lane — near Norris Lake in Centerville, not far from the DeKalb County line — at about 9 p.m. Sunday.
"The (911) caller stated that a man was chasing a woman outside and firing a gun at her," Smith said.
When police arrived they found Benton and 23-year-old Justin Cato outside and suffering from gunshot wounds. Both were transported to the hospital.
Benton passed away there but Cato, her boyfriend, survived.
Due to "conflicting information as to the location of possible suspects," SWAT team members then entered the home. There they found the bodies of 12-year-old Joseph McDonald, Benton's son, and 19-year-old Raynard Daniel, Benton's godson.
Cato, who also called 911 after being shot in the leg, helped finger Bell, described as a black male about 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, as the assailant. Police recovered Bell's SUV and an assault rifle "similar to an AR-15," believed to be the murder weapon, at the scene.
Bell, though, has not been found. He's believed to have walked away from the scene.
"For the time being, and probably in fact until he's in custody, we will consider him armed and dangerous," Smith said. "We don't know if he has any more firearms. We will assume that he does."
Anyone with information on Bell's whereabouts is asked to contact GCPD homicide detectives at 770-513-5300. Police believe he previously lived in Albany and might also have out-of-state connections in the Chicago area.
The exact nature of Bell's relationship with the victims was unclear, but police believe Benton had reached out to help the Bells, possibly through a church program.
"It's my understanding that she extended the invitation to the Bells to move in because they were on hard times," Smith said. " ... We're not sure what provoked (the shooting). It does seem like it just kind of came out of the blue."
Gwinnett had just eight homicides in the first half of 2013, but has seen much more bloodshed since. In the 10 weeks since July 1, there have been 14 believed homicides inside Gwinnett County lines.