Our opinion: Why now?

Published 3:58 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Some readers may ask: why is the Times-Recorder publishing a series of stories on a 40-year-old murder case?

Here’s why.

With the Leigh Bell murder case being closed only recently — February 2019 — by District Attorney Lewis Lamb, following the death of the last suspect, only now has the case file become open for review by the media and public.

After sifting through the hefty file for more than three months and interviewing some of the people involved in the case, we used the research and the interviews to produce a five-part series which will be of interest to not only those who lived through the story 40 years ago, but even to following generations who may have heard of Leigh Bell, the 15-year-old cheerleader who was raped and murdered in June 1979. She would have been 55 years old now, a grandmother and possibly a great-grandmother.

Leigh Bell’s mother, Catherine Bell, has always only wanted answers. She and her husband have lived with unanswered questions for 40 years, and her family has suffered. Only one of their four children survives. While the series will not ultimately answer all the questions, it will provide more information than has been made known prior to 2015. There have been no death bed confessions, no sudden attacks of conscience, but the fact that fresh information can now be shared with the public matters.

The series is a reminder of something horrendous that happened to a young girl on the cusp of her life, in and to the small, southwest Georgia town of Americus, an act of such evil that it robbed this community of its innocence.

Margaret Leigh Bell will not be forgotten, nor will her story.