TIPTON COUNTY, TN (WMC-TV) - New details were released in court Thursday that described why investigators believe a murder suspect killed a Tipton County woman.
Ricky Bell, 30, is accused of killing Starr Harris, 36, whose body was found just before 9:00 p.m. on June 1, dumped in the woods behind her house.
During Bell's court appearance Thursday - his first in the case - a judge read details from an affidavit of complaint that outline the case against him.
According to investigators, Harris suffered severe trauma to her head and face during the attack that ultimately killed her. She also suffered bruising to her torso, arms, and legs. Her shirt and bra were in disarray, and she was not wearing shoes.
A key clue in the case was a small novelty pistol cigarette lighter that belonged to Bell, which was found in the area where Harris' body was located.
During an interview with investigators, Bell's brothers, Michael and Kevin, accurately described the lighter, and said they had seen Bell with it previous to June 1.
Investigators said Harris had been with Bell, an employee of the family's landscaping business, the day she was killed. At 1:10pm on June 1, Harris called her husband from home, and put Bell on the line. Just an hour later, FedEx showed up at the home with a delivery, but no one answered the door.
Bell's cousin, Pamela McDaniel, said the case against him was not strong enough.
"They ain't got enough evidence on him," McDaniel said. "Not for no lighter, 'cause everybody smoke. And got those lighters. That's not enough evidence to me."
But for authorities, the lighter was enough to land Bell in handcuffs, on the hook in a murder case.
Michael and Kevin Bell, along with a third man, Pierre Marta Richardson, face their own charges, of witness coercion, in the case.
According to investigators, the trio used a car to block a section of Richardson Landing Road on the night of the murder, forcing a possible witness to stop. The three men then exited their vehicle and "charged" the driver, asking "Why he was talking to the police and snitching on his brother for killing that woman?"
The men allegedly struck the witness in the face and head. After getting away, the victim was followed to his home by the suspects, where another altercation between the victim, his mother, and the suspects occurred. The three men finally left when they were told sheriff's deputies had been called.
Allen Bell, Kevin Bell, and Pierre Richardson were arrested, and are being held without bond pending an arraignment in court.