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For the week of June 5 - 11, 2002


Bell to be tried for assault, battery

Express Staff Writer

A Hailey woman may have intentionally rammed other vehicles as she speeded south in the northbound lane of Highway 75 on May 19, and therefore will be tried on felony charges of aggravated battery, a 5th District magistrate judge ruled Tuesday.

Following a preliminary hearing in Hailey, Judge Robert Elgee ordered Debra Bell, 42, bound over to district court for her alleged role in a car chase at speeds reportedly reaching 100 miles per hour between Hailey and Bellevue. Bell is also charged with felony eluding and aggravated assault.

She is being held in Blaine County Jail pending payment of a $500,000 bond.

At the time of the incident, Bell was on probation for a felony eluding conviction following a high-speed chase in Gooding County two years ago.

Shackled and dressed in orange jail coveralls, with an unkempt mat of reddish-brown hair, Bell listened calmly and alertly to testimony at Tuesday’s hearing.

Hailey Police Officer Steve England testified that he estimated there to have been between 75 and 100 vehicles on the highway between Hailey and Bellevue when the incident occurred about 4:45 p.m. on the Sunday the event occurred. He said all those vehicles pulled off the road as they saw Bell’s full-size Ford pickup bearing down on them.

According to witnesses’ testimony, two cars were hit in the process—one while trying to make a left turn at Fox Acres Road and the other just after it had pulled into the left lane, northbound, in Bellevue.

Ketchum resident Orland Bradley told the court he had just left the Bellevue city limits, headed north, in his 1987 BMW when he saw Bell’s pickup approaching in his lane. He said he assumed it had just passed other vehicles and would return to the southbound lane, but then noticed there were no other southbound vehicles.

Bradley said he pulled farther toward the right three times to avoid the truck, and each time it mimicked his moves. Finally, completely off the right side of the road, Bradley said, he watched the truck flash past about an inch from his side mirror, felt the wind blast through his open window and heard gravel spray the side of his car.

Deputy prosecutor Justin Whatcott asked Bradley if the incident had scared him.

"Absolutely," Bradley said. "I called it a day after that."

Twin Falls resident Kathryn Litke said she had just pulled out to pass a Chevrolet Suburban while she was headed north in Bellevue on the four-lane road there, when she saw Bell’s truck looming just ahead of her. Litke said she tried to swerve into the center turn lane, but the truck smacked the right rear half of her car, totaling it.

None of the people involved in those incidents was hurt.

England testified that Bell’s truck careened into a fence on the east side of Bellevue’s Main Street following the last accident. When she emerged from her truck, he said, he and another officer pulled their guns and ordered her to lie down. He said Bell was "ranting and raving," but put her hands out as ordered, though she refused to lie down. He said Bellevue Marshal Randy Tremble arrived moments later and tackled Bell from behind.

At the close of testimony, Judge Elgee said that considered individually, none of the accidents could be deemed to have been caused intentionally. However, he said, "when you take all of these incidents together, then the intent element is at least a matter for a jury."

In an interview, a friend of Bell’s, Correna Starr, said she was speaking to Bell in Hailey just before the car chase began, and followed it to Bellevue. She said she believes Bell suffers from recurrent "crazed" episodes, during which she has little control over what she is doing or awareness of what is occurring. She said she doubts Bell intended to harm anyone.


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