Brittany Bell, 27, is a mom of at least three young children from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, who lost one of those babies earlier this year under circumstances that can best be described as heartbreaking — and horrifying. But the death of Bell’s three-month old Baby Alice can also be described as mysterious, because even today, almost 10 months after the infant girl was found unresponsive on the floor of Bell’s apartment, investigators still do not know exactly how the baby died.
The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner officially listed Baby Alice’s cause of death as “undetermined,” attributing the tragedy only to “sudden unexplained infant death.”
But one thing investigators do know is that when they knocked on Bell’s door back on January 8, after she called police to report that her baby had stopped breathing, is that Baby Alice was covered in painful-looking red marks and cuts.
The medical examiner determined that those cuts and abrasions were caused by cockroaches, who fed on the baby, most likely after she was already deceased.
When police first showed up at the upstairs apartment, Bell answered the door with the dead baby in her arms, and according a detective who questioned her, she did not seem too broken up by it, according to a report on Tulsa TV station KOTV.
“Her actions at that time are what I consider to be inappropriate,” Detective Jim Warring told KOTV. “Then again, you have to give the benefit of the doubt, was she in shock? She was just pretty matter of fact and, kind of, almost joking, wasn’t that big of a deal to her.”
Bell initially told Warring that she found her baby lifeless in its crib — but she quickly admitted the lie, explaining that she was trying to protect her 18-month-old twins whom, she feared, may have smothered Baby Alice by sitting on her as she lay on the floor where Bell had placed her before the mom fell asleep on a couch.
How long the baby was on the floor remains another question that investigators were unable to answer, but due to the numerous insect bites on the baby’s body, they guessed that the little girl must have been lying on the floor for several hours. Whether Bell woke up and delayed making the call to police, or if the mom slept for the whole time is also uncertain.
“Based on Bell’s own statements, I can conclude that she laid the baby on the floor and fell asleep without waking during which time Alice may have been suffocated by one or both of her twins or became distressed due to the surface of the floor and suffocated,” Warring said in a court affidavit, uncovered by the Bartlesville World news site.
“Also enough time passed that roaches were able to start feeding on both the baby’s legs and head,” Warring wrote in his affidavit. “All of this took place less than 10 feet from the couch where Bell was reportedly sleeping.”
Because there was no certain cause of death, prosecutors were able to charge Brittany Bell only with a single count of child neglect, rather than a homicide charge.
But the death of Baby Alice was not the first time that the young mom had been accused of neglecting her children. On December 31, police were called to the dwelling by Bell’s downstairs neighbor who had become worried about the three small children who were crying upstairs after Bell evidently went out and left them alone.
According to police, Bell came hime about five minutes after the officers arrived “and acted as if it was not a big deal.” But neighbors told police that the incident was not the first time that Bell left her small children in the apartment by themselves.
According to a report in the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Brittany Bell has now pled guilty to the single child neglect charge and received a sentence of five years in prison, of which she will serve two with the remaining three to be served as supervised probation. Her remaining two children were placed in the custody of the Washington County Department of Human Services. She reportedly has more than the three children who lived with her, but does not have legal custody of those other kids.
[Images: Facebook, Bartlesville Police Department]