Published February 20, 2009
JARRATT, Va. – An inmate declared his innocence Thursday after he was forcibly carried into Virginia's death chamber, where he was executed for gunning down a police officer.
Edward Nathaniel Bell, who was convicted of killing the officer during a foot chase a decade ago, was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. Thursday at the Greensville Correctional Center.
When the door between Bell's cell and the death chamber opened, the inmate thrust his hips backward and wouldn't step toward to the gurney where the lethal injection was administered. Six stocky corrections officers pulled him through the doorway and lifted him onto the gurney.
"To the Timbrook family, you definitely have the wrong person," Bell said in the death chamber, addressing the victim's family. "The truth will come out one day. This here, killing me, there's no justice about it."
Bell's lawyer, who also witnessed the execution, said a sedative the inmate was given made it difficult for him to walk.
"Eddie's case is an example of how the system does not catch and correct errors," said attorney James G. Connell III.
Bell, 43, was condemned for shooting Winchester police Sgt. Ricky Timbrook as the officer chased him down a dark alley on Oct. 29, 1999. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine denied Bell's request for clemency earlier Thursday.
At least 10 current and former Winchester police officers witnessed the execution, including Winchester Sheriff Lenny Millholland.
"I can't say it's closure but it's another chapter in the life of Ricky Timbrook and it ends the chapter that included Eddy Bell," said the sheriff, who was on the police force in 1999 and investigated Timbrook's death.
Bell maintained that he did not shoot Timbrook, a 32-year-old popular police officer, SWAT Team Member and DARE instructor. Prosecutors, however, say Bell was a flashy drug dealer who held a grudge against Timbrook for arresting him two years earlier for possessing a concealed weapon.
Bell initially was scheduled to be executed last year, but Kaine pushed that back while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a Kentucky case challenging the constitutionality of lethal injections. The court upheld the method in April.
The following month, the court granted Bell a temporary reprieve to consider whether his lawyer did a poor job representing him. It later dismissed his appeal.
Bell, a father of five, met with four of his children, his sister and two women with whom he had children, his lawyer said. Connell said his client didn't request a last meal because "he remained hopeful 'til the end" for a pardon and instead ate a cheese sandwich, which was what the rest of the inmates had.
Since Timbrook's death, the city has since named a park, a public safety building, a children's outreach fund and a food-and-toy drive in honor of him.
His wife, Kelly, was pregnant with their only child, Ricky Lee Timbrook II, now 9, when Timbrook was shot.
Kelly Timbrook has been reluctant to talk to the media, but she wrote letters and appeared in a television ad for Kaine's opponent in the 2005 governor's race. She questioned whether Kaine, a Roman Catholic who is opposed to the death penalty, would uphold Bell's sentence.
Before Thursday, Kaine had allowed eight executions and commuted one sentence since he took office in 2006.
A half-dozen protesters gathered outside the prison during the execution.
"One of the scariest parts of the death penalty is that it's hard to ever be certain. And ending someone's life takes away any opportunity to correct any wrongful conviction," said Beth Panilaitis, executive director for Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Bell was the 103rd Virginia inmate executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Virginia ranks second only to Texas in the number of executions since then.