- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A woman fatally shot by her husband after authorities said he killed four of her relatives at a church service had obtained a temporary restraining order against him last year.

Erica Bell, 24, filed her request in December, saying Anthony Bell sometimes beat her and once gave her a black eye in an argument over the use of her car.

“He was cheating on me and this was his way of making sure I don’t cheat on him,” she wrote.

But, at her request, the restraining order was dismissed Jan. 3, court records show.

Anthony Bell, 25, of Baton Rouge, was charged with murder in the deaths Sunday of his wife and her grandparents, a great-aunt and a cousin, officials said. He also was charged with kidnapping and attempted murder. Prosecutors said no arraignment date had been set as of yesterday.

Authorities said he abducted his wife and her three children from the church service; the children were later found unharmed.

Mrs. 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 yesterday.

Mrs. 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 10 a.m. as the service was nearing its end, police said. Church members wept as they watched investigators search for clues.

Police said the victims were Mrs. 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 a 911 call about a shooting at an apartment complex found Mrs. Bell dead in a car there and Mr. Bell holding the baby, Chief LeDuff said.

Mr. Bell was arrested without incident. Authorities said neither he nor his wife lived at the complex.

Police later said Mr. Bell had called 911, 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, Chief LeDuff said.

Mrs. Brown’s brother Jeffery Howard told the New York Times that Mr. Bell had been in and out of Mrs. 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.

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