Twenty-eight-year-old Mary Heather Spencer, simply known as Heather, had that mysterious quality that made all men fall for her, plus she was gorgeous, smart, and kind. The girl voted “Most Beautiful” by her classmates could have gotten any guy she wanted, but she chose horribly wrong. For a year-and a half, Heather dated George Bell III (both pictured left), the third generation of the prominent Jackson, Mississippi family known for their carpet and rug business.
George was thought of as charming and intelligent by many who knew him, but things started going wrong in his life. His business was failing and his frustration led him to cocaine and steroids. In June 2007, he beat Heather so badly that she needed 57 stitches in her head. She refused to press charges against him. “She wanted to see the best in him, because that's the kind of person she is. She sees the best in everyone," said her mother. "She thought with her help, she could make him a better person." He went unpunished, but family members supposedly paid for him to go to rehab. The number of police reports was lengthy.
Just three months later, Heather was murdered by George Bell III. I watched in court as he admitted to kidnapping, sexually assaulting, then beating and strangling his girlfriend to death. He was sentenced to life without parole on the murder charge, and 30 years for the kidnapping. He cried as he read his apology statement to Heather’s mother, Linda Francomb, and Heather’s brother, Xan.
Linda Francomb, for a long time, questioned the involvement of Robbie Bell, George's own mother. In October 2007, Hinds County District Attorney Faye Peterson indicted Robbie Bell as an accessory after the fact, but new DA Robert S. Smith and the attorney general’s office dropped the charges in March 2008 for lack of evidence “after an exhaustive investigation and finally, discussion with the victim’s family,” according to the attorney general’s office.
On June 2, 2008 Linda Francomb filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Robbie and George Bell III.
“During the late evening hours of September 10, 2007, and/or early morning hours of September 11, 2007, while Defendant Robbie Bell, George Bell, III, and Mary Heather Spencer were present, Defendant George Bell, III became enraged, and did violence to the person of Mary Heather Spencer,” the Francomb suit states. “Such violence inflicted severe, but survivable injuries upon the person of Mary Heather Spencer … (who) died as a result of the failure to receive treatment sustained as a result.”Spencer’s family has stated repeatedly that she did not immediately die after the attack, citing a coroner’s report that allegedly states she died six or seven hours after the attack. “Had aid or assistance been furnished to Mary Heather Spencer, Mary Heather Spencer would not have died,” the suit continues. The Bell response, however, states that Francomb has no evidence supporting the allegations that Robbie Bell was in the house when the crime occurred, or that Spencer was alive when Robbie Bell entered her home that evening. The response demands that any evidence to the contrary be produced, or Francomb’s suit should be dismissed. Because Spencer was already dead when Robbie Bell came home, the response says, Robbie Bell is not liable for Spencer’s death.
Today, Heather’s mom is trying to save other women from the same outcome. Please check out Linda Francomb’s new foundation: Heather's TREE (Training, Resources, Education and Empowerment) to combat domestic violence. "If I could help another young woman out of a relationship, make the right choices, give them opportunity to find way out…I want to help them anyway we can.” Run, Rihanna, run.