$24K reward offered in Hardeman County cold case from 1998

Michael Bell was murdered in 1998 while working at a convenience store (SOURCE: District Attorney's Office)
Michael Bell was murdered in 1998 while working at a convenience store (SOURCE: District Attorney's Office)

BOLIVAR, TN (WMC) - A $24,000 reward is being offered for any information that will help investigators solve a 1998 cold case murder in Hardeman County.

Nineteen years after Michael Bell, 22, was killed while he was working at McKee's Stateline Convenience Store on July 23, 1998, investigators are still working to determine who is responsible.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation joined other law enforcement agencies, including Hardeman County Sheriff's Department, to announce the reward Thursday.

Investigators said the man shot Bell in the store and then left in a 1990s General Motors model sedan and drove toward Walnut, Mississippi. Information gathered during the investigation indicates that robbery was not a motive for the shooting.

"Robbery does not appear to be the motive in the shooting of victim Michael Bell. But, he was instead the target of a coordinated murder," District Attorney Mike Dunavant said.

Investigators did not say why they believe Bell was targeted.

"I just remember the town was in shock because something like this had never really happened," Middleton resident Rosa Dondorfer said.

Investigators released surveillance photos of the suspect reaching into the cash register.

"People that know, that do not want to talk, this might jog some memories and get the information that we need," Hardeman County Sheriff John Doolen said.

Investigators said they believe there are people in the community who can provide information that will assist in solving this crime. The reward is for information that directly assists law enforcement in the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Bell's death.

A law passed in 2013 allowed the FBI to offer rewards in cases such as this one. The FBI is providing $20,000 of the reward and Hardeman County is adding $4,000, bringing the total reward amount to $24,000.

"Those who committed this cowardly act, to them I have this one message: Your crime is not forgotten; justice will be done," Michael Gavin of the FBI said.

The convenience store closed not long after the murder. Then, a strong storm came in and took it down.

If you have any information on the murder of Bell, call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

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