Eleven girls died.
Some alone, others in pairs.
Decades have passed without answers – their murders are in cold case files in police departments in Galveston, Brazoria and Harris counties in Texas
Enter Edward Howard Bell, a convicted killer serving a 70-year prison term for a murder of a Marine who tried to stop him when he exposed himself to a group of young girls. Bell, who is up for parole this fall, claims to have killed the girls – who were killed in the 1970’s in different areas of Texas -- referring to them in an interview with the Houston Chronicle in 2011 as the “11 that went to heaven.”
Now, an A&E series will re-examine the case. The series will include interviews with Chronicle reporter Lisa Olsen, who broke the story, as well as the police detective, Fred Paige, now retired, who worked on the case.
In a description of the series, A&E says: “Olsen and Paige must try to piece together evidence that demonstrates a definitive link between the convicted killer and girls…before he has the possibility to walk free.”
Bell has been inconsistent over the years, denying the written confession when interviewed by law enforcement officials and then saying that he would provide details if he were to get immunity from prosecution, according to the Chronicle.
"The bottom line is Ed Bell has said these things (before). Is it fodder? I don't know. I've never been able to prove anything he has said," said then-Capt. Chris Kincheloe of the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office to the Chronicle.
Bell eluded police for about 20 years after he was released on bail following the murder of the Marine, Larry Dickens. He was arrested at a yacht club in Panama in 1992.
Bell reportedly said in his confession that he killed several of the victims in pairs. His letter was not shared with a grand jury.
Former prosecutor Kurt Sistrunk told the Chronicle, "I didn't believe we had sufficient evidence that we could proceed to grand jury with, and without getting into specifics, that's the decision that had to be made, no matter the temptations to proceed otherwise ... It wasn't for a lack of effort."
Since the Chronicle story about Bell’s confession, relatives of the victims have expressed confusion, and some doubt.
"It makes it hard that we don't know if this Bell guy is a nut or if he's telling the truth," said Dotti Walker, the aunt of one victims, Sharon Shaw. "As bad and as mean as he is, he could be telling the truth because of his conscience ... Not knowing is heartbreaking."
Paige believes Bell is guilty.
Bell had a history of arrests for exposing himself to young girls. Several times, he stayed at psychiatric institutions, at times trying to lure young female patients he met at them.
He said that he had committed crimes after being “brainwashed” to be violent by his father, among others.
The series is scheduled to air on A&E beginning Thursday at 8 p.m., with back-to-back hour-long episodes. The next four parts are planned for 9 p.m. on subsequent Thursdays, starting Oct. 26.