What started out as a robbery to pay for a tattoo ended with the death of a 7-year old girl and her uncle, according Marion County, Indiana prosecutors. Two defendants, 22-year-old Michael Bell Jr., 25-year-old Jeremy Priel, are accused of collaborating in a plot to obtain a PlayStation 3 console that Bell wanted to trade for tattoo work, according to court documents charging the two men with murder.
Both men told different stories about how the events unfolded and how the two victims died. Bell and Priel are accused of murdering 21-year-old Jeremy Crane and his niece Kyleigh Crane. Court documents offer different accounts of the killings and statements that Bell and Priel gave to police during questioning.
Bell was looking for a way to make money to have some tattoo work done, court documents allege. Bell offered to obtain a PS3 and allegedly told Priel that he knew where he could find one. The place he spoke of was the home of Bell's close friend Jeremy Crane, where he once lived.
Bell told police that he accompanied Priel to Crane's door where they asked if they could use the bathroom. When Bell and Priel entered the house, Kyleigh Crane was on the couch watching cartoons. Bell said that the plan was that once he was in the bathroom, Priel would "rob everyone."
Bell said that he emerged from the bathroom when he heard Jeremy Crane yelling for him. At that point, Priel pointed a gun at Bell and told him to lie on the floor along with the two victims -- part of a ruse they allegedly concocted.
After that, Priel shot Jeremy Crane, wounding him. Priel shot him again in the head. Bell said he was close enough to get blood spattered on him. Bell also admitted to stepping over Jeremy Crane's body to collect two video-game consoles: a PlayStation 3 and an Xbox 360. Bell finished by telling police that he didn't see the shooting of Kyleigh Crane, because he had fled with the game consoles. He told detectives he heard another gunshot after leaving the house.
Bell's story to police conflicted with an earlier story in which he denied ever going inside the home with Priel.
Priel later pawned the game consoles for $40 and an ounce of marijuana, according to court documents. Two men took the consoles to the Cumberland Police Department after seeing news reports of the killings and the missing video-game systems.
Priel told police that Bell was alone when he went to get the game systems and he denied knowing exactly where Bell got them from. In one interview, he told police he waited for Bell at a carwash, while Bell went to get a PlayStation 3 from the home of a former girlfriend. In a later interview, Priel said Bell got it from a male friend.
Authorities do not know which of the two men fired the bullets that killed the victims, Prosecutor Terry Curry said.
"At this point, there is not sufficient evidence to identify who might have pulled the trigger," Curry said. "Additional forensic testing might help make that determination."
The game systems and a discarded cellphone helped lead police to Bell and Priel. They were arrested on Sunday. Police do not believe a dispute between Bell and Jeremy Crane led to the killings.
"They worked at the same place, at MCL, and Jeremy Crane was a team leader there," Cumberland Police Chief Michael Crooke said. "Bell had worked there but was fired, but not by Jeremy."
Prosecutors are not sure yet if they will seek the death penalty in this case.
"We review every single homicide that has aggravator factors present that would potentially involve consideration of the death penalty or life without parole, and those aggravators are present here," Curry said.
Curry added that this crime involves "a victim under age 12, more than one victim and the fact a robbery is alleged to have occurred in conjunction with a homicide." Curry will meet with detectives and the Crane family in the weeks ahead and make a decision on what they will seek at trial. He does not expect to make a decision on whether to seek the death penalty for at least 30 days. Bell and Priel are scheduled to hear formal charges against them at 9 a.m. today in Marion Superior Court.
Source: Indy Star