Death penalty to be sought in Centerville triple homicide

Robert Erik Bell

Robert Erik Bell


Danny Porter

LAWRENCEVILLE — The death penalty will be sought against Robert Erik Bell, the man accused of ambushing and killing three people near Snellville last September.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter filed a motion last month declaring his intent to pursue the death penalty in Bell’s case “based on aggravated circumstances.” Georgia law offers several strict guidelines for circumstances in which capital punishment can be imposed, and Porter has filed under the section that allows it if “the offense of murder, rape, armed robbery, or kidnapping was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony.”

In Bell’s case, murder is the alleged offense and the “other” capital felony.

Bell, 34, was arrested at a New Orleans, La., homeless shelter in October, about five weeks after police believe he opened fire at 4630 Anderson Livsey Lane in Centerville. According to authorities, Bell and his wife had been living there with Angelina Benton’s family after falling on hard times.

On Sept. 15, 2013, Bell was allegedly armed and waiting inside the home when Benton, her 12-year-old son, 19-year-old godson and boyfriend returned from a short trip in Bell’s SUV. Joseph McDonald and Raynard Daniel — the son and godson, respectively — were shot and killed as they entered the home. Benton, 34, was killed in the driveway.

Justin Cato, the boyfriend, was shot in the leg but survived after hiding in a ditch until police arrived.

Bell reportedly fled on foot before stealing a car nearby. The latter was eventually recovered in New Orleans, helping lead authorities to their suspect. Bell was indicted in November on three counts apiece of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, as well as a single charge of aggravated battery.

A potential motive for the shooting has never been revealed.

Since November, Porter has now filed to pursue the death penalty in three separate murder cases.

The district attorney intends to seek capital punishment for Eman and Tiffany Moss, the parents of 10-year-old Emani Moss. Starved to death, put in a trash can and set on fire last fall in Lawrenceville, the young girl’s death has helped spur changes in the state’s Division of Family and Children Services.

Ki Song Kim will also face the death penalty when he goes to trial for the July 27, 2013, murder of Young Chan and Sun Hee Choi, his former employers at a local restaurant supply business. According to authorities, the couple was stabbed multiple times inside their Duluth home. Sun Hee Choi’s throat was cut.