Authorities explore killer's claim in Southeast TX deaths - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Authorities explore killer's claim in Southeast TX deaths

HOUSTON (AP) - Authorities are looking into a convicted killer's claim that he is responsible for the deaths of as many as 11 young girls in southeast Texas in the 1970s.

Investigators and prosecutors in three counties told the Houston Chronicle ( ) Tuesday they were trying to recover old or lost evidence that could provide clues to the mostly unsolved murders.

Edward Harold Bell, 72, described to the newspaper in a story published Sunday a string of cases from 1971 to 1976. He's serving a 70-year sentence for killing a Houston-area Marine in 1978.

Prosecutors received letters of confession from Bell in 1998, but he never was indicted because of detectives being unable to verify his claims or cost considerations related to cold-case investigations. Some of the letters also were lost. The cases he described in prison interviews with the newspaper involved girls between the ages of 12 and 19 who were taken from towns and rural roads in Brazoria, Harris and Galveston counties.

At least six law enforcement agencies in the three counties said they would review files to see if evidence could be retested to either corroborate or disprove Bell's claims.

"We will continue to review anything credible on these cold cases," said Donna Cameron, a Galveston County prosecutor. "The investigation is ongoing, however, so we won't be discussing any details."

Bell has named four victims - all teenage girls - and described to the newspaper four other victims he said were killed in pairs.

An investigator from Brazoria County questioned Bell in 2007, to ask about two slain girls based on Bell's descriptions. Bell was shown the photos of the victims, then said he didn't know the girls and refused to say anything more, said sheriff's Capt. Chris Kincheloe.

Bell has told the Houston Chronicle that he would provide proof to back up his claims only if he's given immunity.

Bell was arrested in 1978 for the fatal shooting of Larry Dickens. The Marine was gunned down while trying to stop Bell from masturbating in front of a group of girls. Records show Bell had repeatedly exposed himself that summer while driving around in his pickup truck.

Authorities now are trying to find a 1972 Ford van that Bell repainted and later burned and a red travel trailer that resembled a caboose. The vehicle had been parked on land not far from where girls disappeared and where bodies were found. The trailer last was seen at a hunting camp in West Texas.

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