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Bell’s assailants convicted

LIVINGSTON-Almost exactly a year from last May’s early morning shooting of Demopolis High School men’s basketball coach Jesse Bell three participants of the crime were brought to justice.

Jesse James Shepherd, 25, of Demopolis was convicted by a jury of robbery, first degree and assault, first degree, while Willie Bell Allen Jr., 21, of Jefferson pled guilty to robbery, first degree and assault, first degree. Jeffrey Allen, 20, of Jefferson also pled guilty to robbery, first degree.

Two of the original suspects in the case, Michelle Laletta Shepherd and Shimego Howell, both of Demopolis had their cases dismissed by the judge for lack of evidence.

Sumter County Sheriff Johnny Lee Hatter said the investigation and conviction was a long process and he was very pleased with the way things were handled.

“This was a very complicated and difficult case to try,” Hatter said. “I want to thank District Attorney Greg Griggers and his staff for doing an outstanding job with this case. I am more than satisfied with the way the court handled it.”

Bell was struck by the shots on what began as a routine day at his club. On Sunday May 23 of 2004 the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department received a call from Bell at the Oak Tree Lounge telling officers he had been shot during a robbery while closing his business. Bell said he had walked out the back door where two gunmen met him and demanded the night’s receipts.

Bell told the man another employee had already taken the money from the club, however, the pair assaulted him anyway. While trying to escape Bell was shot in the hip. The robbers also took his truck as they fled.

Bell received a fractured femur from the gunshot and had a metal rod inserted into his hip during surgery as a result if the injury. Allen was arrested hours after the shooting, while both Shepherd’s and Howell were taken into custody after further investigation into the crime.