Judge William Jackson sentenced Lanee Bell to three years in prison Tuesday in connection with the brutal beating death of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier. Bell’s jail time was suspended and she must complete two years of probation.
Bell had pled guilty to kidnapping in the case and said Tuesday that her participation in Frazier’s death was a mistake.
“I just wanna let y’all know that I apologize for what happened,” Bell wept as she addressed Frazier’s family. “I made a mistake. I just ask that you find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Frazier was kidnapped, punched, stomped, taped up, gagged, choked and eventually killed in early August 2010 all because Johnnie Sweet believed she stole $900 from him. Several of Frazier’s kidnappers attempted to dismember her body, but failed, and prosecutors believe it is now in a Virginia landfill.
Bell testified at Sweet’s murder trial and said that she didn’t know that Frazier was going to be killed, and that she briefly participated in Frazier’s beating out of “peer pressure.”
Bell further testified that after a few minutes of punching Frazier, she pushed away Cinthya Proctor and Aneka Nelson and told them to stop because Frazier had done nothing to them. Then, Bell said, Sweet hit Frazier “too many times to count,” and after Frazier fell to the floor, Brian Gaither began stomping her. Bell said that she then left Sweet’s home, where the attack occurred, and returned later that evening, but never asked what happened to Frazier.
Prosecutors believe Frazier may have been taped up and locked in a closet in Sweet’s home at the time Bell returned that evening. And Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh said Tuesday that Bell may have been able to prevent Frazier’s death.
“This is a difficult case for the government,” Kavanaugh told the court. “The facts really do set [Bell] apart from everyone else. She accepted responsibility from the very beginning, took it very seriously, and provided valuable assistance to the investigation. But, she could have stopped [the beating].”
Judge Jackson said Tuesday that when Bell pled guilty to kidnapping, and he told her the maximum penalty for the charge, “her knees buckled, but she went forward anyway.”
Jackson also said that he “had the rare opportunity” to attend a portion of Sweet’s trial and listen to Bell’s testimony.
“She appeared to be forthcoming,” Jackson said. “Ms. Bell’s testimony, I thought, was crucial.”
Barry Campbell, Frazier’s biological father, spoke at the hearing Tuesday and said that he appreciates that Bell came forward. “I respect her for it,” he said.
Bell was 17 years old at the time of Frazier’s death, and was the only co-defendant in the case to testify at Sweet’s murder trial. Judge Jackson said Tuesday that since then she has graduated high school and now attends college.