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Child porn suspect resigns from Currituck Game Commission

Richard Bell.JPG

Richard Bell

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

CURRITUCK — A Moyock man arrested last week on charges of possessing child pornography has resigned from the Currituck Game Commission.

Richard Bell, 73, of the 300 block of Puddin Ridge Road, stepped down from his position on the appointed board over the weekend, Commissioner Marion Gilbert said Monday night.

“He just called me and said that it was his desire to resign. And I accepted that,” Gilbert said. “So, he is no longer on that board. I will have a new appointment.”

Gilbert nominated Bell in December 2015 for a seat on the board that issues licenses to Currituck hunters for stationary bush and floating bush blinds. Along with state wildlife resources officers, the game commission also helps enforce migratory wildfowl game laws in Currituck.

The full Currituck Board of Commissioners approved Gilbert’s recommendation that Bell serve on the board, and reappointed him last June when Gilbert renominated him for another term. The second term was set to expire in June 2019, county Administrative Assistant Leeann Walton said.

Bell’s arrest became public knowledge on Friday when N.C. Public Safety officials announced in a press release that he was one of 76 suspects — and one of eight in North Carolina — rounded up on charges of possessing child pornography during an eight-state law enforcement operation.

According to the Currituck Sheriff’s Office, Bell was charged with six counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor as a result of the probe.

A sheriff's office spokeswoman said Tuesday that Bell was released after posting a $60,000 secured bond. He is due to appear today on the charges in Currituck District Court, the spokeswoman said.

In a related development, an official with the N.C. Department of Public Safety apologized in an email on Monday for misstating in a press release that Bell had been a church deacon and had overseen a daycare center at his church. Alan Flora, the special agent in charge of the State Bureau of Investigation's computer crimes unit, said he was responsible for the misinformation.

Although Flora’s press release didn't identify Bell’s church by name, the Rev. Michael Williams, pastor at New Moyock United Methodist Church, said during an interview on Saturday that Bell was not a deacon at the church and did not oversee a daycare center because New Moyock doesn’t have one.

Williams said Bell was a trustee for the church's buildings and grounds but resigned following his arrest. Williams also said had Bell not stepped aside, he would have suspended him from his duties at the church.

Flora said the information about Bell he put in the press release was obtained by SBI agents from local witnesses in Currituck the day of Bell’s arrest. Flora said Bell also apparently had referred to a position of trust and authority he held at his church, and stated how much he enjoyed spending time with children there.

"They were told that Bell was a deacon in the church and that he ran the daycare program there," Flora said. "This information was not verified through other sources due to the late hour at which the investigative interviews were taking place."

 

Flora expressed regret for any concern the error may have caused members of the church Bell attends.

"It was not my intention to provide inaccurate information," he said.

Flora said the SBI still has a lot of work to do in the Bell case. Flora said he couldn’t speculate whether Bell would face additional charges.

“I can only say that we seized digital evidence, which will be examined to determine if additional charges are warranted,” he said.

Flora said although a scientific examination of digital evidence is time-consuming, “the SBI will work with the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office to find the answers that your citizens deserve.”

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