Best Evidence

George Allen claims police made him confess to rape and murder. Twenty years after Allen was convicted, his last hope hinges on a DNA test.

On the day his lover died, Watters said, he woke up between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and took a shower while Bell fixed him breakfast. Around 9 a.m., he later testified in the murder trials, Bell took a telephone call from her mother, Eleanor Enger. Watters said Bell cut the conversation short, telling her mother that she'd call back later because she wanted to see Watters off to work. Watters said he left by 9 a.m., locking the door. Bell's next-door neighbor, Sandra Salih, heard Watters leave. When he slammed the door, her windows shook.

Enger told the jury a slightly different story. Yes, she called her daughter at 9 a.m., but Bell never mentioned Watters. She said she'd never met Watters and didn't know he was sharing the apartment with her daughter.

Between 10 and 10:15 a.m., Pamela Richardson, who transcribed tapes and notes for court reporters, called Bell. Bell had four tapes for Richardson to transcribe, and Richardson, who was downtown at the time, agreed to come by Bell's apartment to pick them up. The apartment's parking lot was still full of snow, so Richardson would have to park on the street.

George Allen Jr.
Mo. Dept. of Corrections
George Allen Jr.
Mary Bell's husband John Bell
Mary Bell's husband John Bell

Richardson testified at trial about their telephone conversation. While they were talking, Richardson recalled, Bell interrupted the conversation briefly. When she picked up the phone again, Bell explained, "I just took a shower. I had to put on a robe." Richardson said that when Bell put the phone down, "I thought maybe somebody had come to the door."

Sometime after 10 a.m., neighbor Sandra Salih heard "angry male and female voices" coming from Bell's apartment. The "woman's voice was the loudest," Salih testified. "She was crying while the argument was going on. To me it was loud, angry crying." Salih testified that the argument lasted about ten minutes and assumed it was Bell and Watters who were fighting because "that's who I thought lived there."

At about 10:30 a.m., Salih heard someone knocking on Bell's door. It was Richardson.

It wasn't the first time Richardson had been to Bell's home. "I would knock on the door and [Bell] would look out her kitchen window, which was the level above the front door. I would see her face up there and I would hear her coming down the stairs. She would look out her peephole and then call my name before she opened that door," Richardson told a jury.

Richardson testified that Bell was an "extremely" cautious person who followed the ritual "every time."

This time, Bell didn't look out her kitchen window or peer through the peephole. Richardson heard "some movement right inside the front door. I heard the sound of a down jacket rustling against what I know now to be the door." And, she said, she also "heard some bumping sounds, muffled bumping sounds later ... right up against her front door." She knocked louder, called Bell's name two or three times to the window above. But Bell never answered the door, and Richardson gave up. She said that she tried calling Bell several times during the day, to no avail.

Richardson wasn't the only one trying to get in touch with Bell. Watters said he tried to call her several times but couldn't reach her.

Watters came home around 6 p.m. Bell's white Volkswagen Rabbit, just a few months old, was in the parking lot. Watters told the jury that both the doorknob lock and deadbolt were unlocked. When he opened the door, he saw Bell's shoes at the bottom of the stairs. The apartment was dark, and the radio was on. Some cards were shuffled about on the floor. He smelled burning coffee and turned on a light.

"I called out for Mary," Watters said. The bedroom door was closed, the room dark. "I believe I looked in the bedroom." But he didn't turn on the light. He only looked behind the bedroom door for the laundry, because, he told the jury, "I know we talked about doing laundry that night."

Watters went downstairs to the building's basement laundry room to look for Bell. When he didn't find her, Watters said, he went to Mellodie Wilson's apartment. Wilson, the apartment manager, had become friends with Bell.

The two returned to the apartment to look for Bell. They found her in the bedroom -- her nude body was across the room, in a corner between the bed and the wall. From the door, the bed would have hidden the body. Bell was lying face-down on the floor, a pool of blood beneath her.

When police arrived, they found blood on the bed, the bedroom wall and carpet and a robe and a director's chair in the kitchen, as well as in the bathroom.

They also found evidence of rape: seminal fluid in the crotch of Bell's jeans, on the back inside part of her robe and on a director's chair. That led police to believe Bell had been wearing a robe and a pair of pants when she was attacked. Anal lacerations indicated that she'd been sodomized.

Of the twenty identifiable fingerprints at the scene, nineteen belonged to Watters and one to an investigating officer.

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