- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2009


A Jamaican man who killed a Winchester police officer a decade ago is scheduled to be executed Thursday.

Edward Nathaniel Bell, 44, is set to die for shooting Sgt. Ricky Timbrook in the head while the officer chased him down a dark alley in October 1999.

Bell was supposed to be executed last year, but Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, delayed it while the Supreme Court considered a Kentucky case challenging the constitutionality of lethal injections. The court upheld the method of execution in April.

The following month, the court granted Bell a temporary reprieve to consider whether his attorney did a poor job representing him. It later dismissed his appeal.

Bell maintains his innocence. He says when Sgt. Timbrook, 32, jumped out of an unmarked police car the night of Oct. 29, 1999, he ran because he didn’t recognize the officer. Sgt. Timbrook was shot at point-blank range during the chase, but Bell says someone else pulled the trigger.

Bell’s attorneys have exhausted court appeals. In their last-hope petition to Mr. Kaine for clemency, they said their client’s trial lawyers performed so badly that jurors did not have the information needed to make a life-or-death decision.

The lawyers also sent Mr. Kaine video testimony from friends and law-enforcement officers in Bell’s native Jamaica who called him a hardworking, easy-going man, and from loved ones and two of his five children pleading for the governor to commute his sentence to life.

The lawyers also said Bell didn’t know who was chasing him. So when he heard the gunshot, he broke into a home and hid there until police arrested him the next morning.

Despite an exhaustive search that included dogs and metal detectors, the .38-caliber handgun that killed Sgt. Timbrook was not found until a second hunt. It was discovered close to where Bell had been hiding in an area already scoured. DNA from the gun was a mixture of at least three people, including Bell.

“He has always regretted, and continues to regret, the senseless tragedy that befell Officer Timbrook, but it did not come by his hand,” Bell’s attorneys wrote in their petition.

Prosecutors say Bell was a flashy drug dealer who held a grudge against Sgt. Timbrook for arresting him two years earlier for carrying a concealed weapon.

Sgt. Timbrook was a respected eight-year officer, SWAT team member and DARE instructor. He left behind a wife, Kelly, who was pregnant with their only child, Ricky Lee Timbrook II, now 9.

Every Oct. 29, Sgt. Timbrook’s fellow officers hold a graveside memorial.

The Timbrooks have been reluctant to talk to the media, but Mrs. Timbrook wrote letters and appeared in a television ad in the 2005 governor’s race expressing concern that Mr. Kaine would stop Bell’s execution if elected.

Mr. Kaine, a Roman Catholic, opposes the death penalty but promised to uphold the law in Virginia, which carries out more executions than any other state but Texas. He has allowed eight executions and commuted one sentence since he took office in 2006. Mr. Kaine said last week that he was reviewing the clemency petition.

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