A Brooklyn woman confessed to police that she shot her ex-girlfriend in the back of the head last Wednesday, following a tumultuous on-and-off relationship over the past two decades.
Latisha Bell, 38, turned herself into the 78th Precinct stationhouse in Brooklyn, admitting to shooting 52-year-old Nichelle Thomas with a .38 caliber handgun as Thomas was entering a local shop in New York’s toney Park Slope neighborhood. Bell blitzed Thomas from behind, so she never saw the attack coming.
Bell now faces charges of first-degree murder and weapon possession.
“I am turning myself in for the homicide,” Bell told police, according to a criminal complaint. “The gun is inside the bag. I need to talk to the homicide detective. I did the shooting.”
Bell was arraigned in Brooklyn criminal court and ordered held without bail.
Her sister told the New York Post that Bell had been suffering from mental illness for a long time before the shooting, and that Thomas was aware of her mental health issues.
“My sister don’t deserve this, period. She don’t. She tried to leave her alone, but the woman kept going back to her. Every time she seen my sister doing well, she kept going back to her, knowing that she was mentally disabled,” Bell’s sibling said. “When my sister left her, she should have kept going. You don’t play with the mentally ill.”
A prosecutor told the Post that throughout Bell and Thomas’s 20-year-long relationship, there were 14 domestic incident reports filed, with Bell being listed as the “aggressor” in 10 of them.
At her arraignment hearing, Michael Sheinberg, Bell’s lawyer, asked that his client receive a psychiatric evaluation before proceeding with the trial against her.
Thomas, who had been studying at New York Theological Seminary in Manhattan to be a mental health counselor, was remembered by friends and members of her church congregation as an active member, a kind and open-minded person, and someone who “exuded joy,” according to the New York Daily News.
Although Bell and Thomas had reportedly broken up three years ago, with Bell relocating to an apartement in the Bronx, neighbors said they had gotten back together in recent weeks.
Tieaisha Holmes, the building manager where Thomas lived, recalled encountering Thomas trying to get back into her apartment one morning after Bell locked her out.
“She was scared,” Holmes said of Thomas’s demeanor. “You could see the fear in her eyes and I can still hear that voice in my head. She said, ‘Mental illness is real.’ I will never forget that.”
Neighbor Deneen Johnson told the Daily News that she couldn’t fathom what motivated Bell to shoot Thomas.
“Maybe she was stalking her and saw her with someone else,” she said. “Or maybe she just loved her that much. But for her to do something like that I really can’t fathom at all.”
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