DEDHAM – A Norfolk Superior Court jury on Friday, July 1 found Cornel Bell guilty of first-degree murder for killing his ex-girlfriend Michelle Clarke in her Weymouth apartment in August 2017.
The jury found Bell, 50, guilty of first-degree murder under two theories: premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The jury received the case Wednesday, June 29 and returned its verdict late Friday morning.
First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole in Massachusetts. Bell, who has been held without bail since his arrest in late 2019, has a right to automatically appeal the sentence.
Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey praised the work of prosecutor Carolyn Hely and investigators from the Weymouth Police Dept., Massachusetts State Police and U.S. Marshals Service, who tracked Bell to Florida after he ran from police.
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“I’m very happy and proud of the work they did to bring this to a successful solution, and I hope it brings the family some solace,” Morrissey said. “My real thanks is to the family for their patience and support to see this through after it got tied up during COVID. … They stuck by us and hung in there.”
During her closing arguments, Hely said Bell was driven by jealousy when he stabbed Clarke 15 times in a premeditated attack.
She said Clarke, 33, left her job as a bartender in Dorchester in the early morning of Aug. 19. Bell, her ex-boyfriend and a patron of the bar, then showed up at her apartment, Hely said.
She said Bell went into Clarke's apartment and into her bedroom, surprising her. She was on the phone with her mother at the time. Hely said Bell stabbed her 15 times in the chest before fleeing to his apartment in Dorchester to pack, then went to Cape Cod and took a bus to Florida, where he has family.
Hearing the commotion, Clarke's mother called police and asked them to do a well-being check. They found her dead, Hely said.
Bell was added to the State Police's Most Wanted list in September 2017, followed by his indictment in October 2017. Police arrested him at a Florida construction site in September 2019.
State Police later said Bell has a “long history of violent crime,” and was wanted on two warrants under different aliases – one for assault with intent to murder in 1997 and the other for armed robbery in 2002.
Bell testified in his own defense and said he "lost it" and can't remember much of attack on Clarke.
Madden, Bell's attorney, said his client did kill Clarke, but that there is no evidence of premeditation or extreme cruelty, as required for first-degree murder.
Madden said Bell was in crisis following the death of his father, and was "desperate" for support from Clarke.
Clarke left behind a son, who was 6 years old at the time of her death. She worked as a medical assistant at the employee health and wellness center at Linden Ponds, a Hingham retirement community.
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Read our earlier coverage of the Cornel Bell case
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Reach Jessica Trufant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Cornel Bell found guilty of killing Weymouth mom Michelle Clarke