SC's Death Row may lead to lengthy wait for criminals - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

SC's Death Row may lead to lengthy wait for criminals

William Bell Jr. (Source: SC Dept. of Corrections) William Bell Jr. (Source: SC Dept. of Corrections)
ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

South Carolina's Death Row houses 51 inmates and the average wait for a criminal's execution is 12 years, though one Upstate man has spent nearly 25 years there.

South Carolina's Attorney General Alan Wilson understands the emotional toll the wait can take on victims' families.

"I'm very empathetic to people, especially to victims who have to basically go through this process over and over," Wilson said.

William Bell Jr., 44, has been on Death Row since 1989. He was convicted of robbing and murdering Dennis Ray Hepler. Hepler had been working late at an elementary school in the city of Anderson, and had just been named the school's principal.

Investigators quickly tied Bell and three other men to the crime, two were sentenced to death and the other two were given lengthy prison sentences. A former detective for the city of Anderson, Layton Creamer, doesn't understand why it's taken so long to execute Bell.

"In a case like this, where there is no doubt that these are the ones who did it," Creamer said. "We recovered his wallet, fingerprints, detailed confessions."

Attorney General Wilson said the judicial process is a necessary evil, after sentencing there is a direct appeal automatically happens, then a series of seven appeals are possible through both state, federal and the Supreme Court.

William Bell is currently undergoing a mental evaluation, although there were no mental problems determined at the time of the crime, his condition may have changed after 25 years on Death Row.

If William Bell is found mentally incompetent, the law will not allow him to be executed.

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