Man’s life without parole sentence upheld

May 20, 2015

There is sufficient evidence to affirm a Fulton County man’s sentence of life without parole for his connection in the murder of an elderly woman during a home invasion, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Roy Bell was convicted of various crimes, including murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder conviction. Bell and two others broke into a home they believed had guns inside and discovered 81-year-old Wilma Upsall inside. They tied her up and shot her multiple times, although the record does not say who actually shot Upsall. Bell said the decision to kill her came after a mask he was wearing fell off. He feared she would recognize him.

After the murder, Bell told Michelle Rzepczynski that if anyone asks, he was with her all day on the day of the murder and he would kill her if she said anything different. He told her he murdered someone. DNA testing recovered from a homemade black mask could not exclude Bell from having deposited DNA on it.

In Roy Bell v. State of Indiana, 25S00-1310-LW-713, Bell only challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the murder conviction. He argued there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder, his statement to police was unreliable and Rzepczynski’s statement to police was likewise unreliable.

Justice Robert Rucker pointed to the DNA evidence to quickly dispose of Bell’s first argument. He also noted that Bell did not challenge the statements at trial that he now argues are unreliable. He actually stipulated that his statement to police and Rzepczynski’s statement would be admitted into evidence.

Bell argued that his statement to police was unworthy of belief because he was without counsel, sleep deprived and scared to death. But he was advised of his Miranda rights and waived them and appeared alert and responsive with the officers, Rucker wrote. His statement was not unreliable as a matter of law and standing alone was sufficient to sustain his murder conviction.

The justices declined to reweigh the evidence regarding Rzepczynski’s statement, finding the weight and credibility afforded her statement was a matter left to the trial court as the trier of fact.


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