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Killing Brings Warning For Elderly Women

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Killing brings warning for elderly women

By John Barton


YPSILANTI - Elderly women who live alone are being advised by police to be extra cautious and wary of strangers while the search continues for the man who killed a 91-year-old woman after breaking into her campus-area home.

The warnings were prompted by the discovery Friday of Florence Bell’s body in the home she had lived in since 1922. Police said her throat was slashed, and there was evidence that the widow and great-grandmother had fought with her killer.

In May 1980, Bell was one of three women in their late 80s and 90s living near the Eastern Michigan University campus on the city’s near west side who were beaten and raped by a man who forced his way into their homes. At the time, police believed the same man staged all three attacks.

HE WAS never been caught.

Bell’s family urged her to move elsewhere after the assault, but Bell refused. According to one of her daughters, whenever the possibility was raised that the man could return and harm her again, Bell said, “So what if it does happen again? If it does, at least I’ll die in my own home.”

Although initial information released by police about the slaying failed to mention the previous assault, officers are now saying publicly that the man who raped Bell in 1980 could have returned nearly 20 months later, raped her again and killed her.

“That possibility that the same individual is involved in both incidents does exist,” said Chief of Police Jimmy F. Moore, “and we would be remiss if we weren’t looking into it. But at the moment we have nothing concrete to indicate that the same individual was involved. But we are looking into all possibilities.

“AT THE SAME time, I want people to know that this department is using all of its resources to investigate this crime, and our investigators are leaving no stone untouched.

"We are going to do everything possible to see to it that this individual is identified, apprehended and removed from society.”

So far, police have refused to discuss lines of investigation, or reveal what evidence, if any, was obtained by crime lab technicians who examined the scene after Bell’s body was found by a granddaughter. It is believed she was killed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7:20 p.m. Investigators also believe Bell was sexually assaulted by her killer.

But the department says no official statement on sexual assault aspects of the case will be released until laboratory tests have been completed.

Bell’s slaying, coupled with the sexual attacks on her and other elderly women during 1980, have also aroused fears that a sexual psychopath could be preying on elderly women living alone in Ypsilanti.

“THE FACT that elderly women are being attacked,” Moore said, “tells me that the person or persons perpetrating this crime are not ‘normal.’ As far as the time between the incidents is concerned, if you have a person who attacks the elderly, he’s not balanced, and you use logic to examine his moves. They simply don’t do normal things.

“So we can’t say this is the same person who committed these crimes in 1980 and started again. The time lapse could mean various things. The person could have been out of town; it could have been a person that for some reason nothing set him off during that period of time. We don’t know. Their reasoning powers are not the same as ours.”

While police search for the killer, Moore advises elderly women living alone to take extra security measures.

“THEY SHOULD keep their doors and windows locked; don’t let anyone into their home unless they know the person; and they should have some type of situation with their neighbors so they can watch over each other,” the chief said.