Suspect in slayings of Cumberland man, 7-year-old girl pleads guilty to murder charges

Michael Bell pleaded guilty to murder charges

INDIANAPOLIS - A man accused in the shooting deaths of a Cumberland man and his 7-year-old niece pleaded guilty to two counts of felony murder in court Friday.

Michael Bell, 23, was charged in the Dec. 2011 shooting deaths of Jeremy Crane, 21, and Kyleigh Crane, 7, at a home in the 600 block of Woodlark Drive in Cumberland.

Bell and his friend, Jeremy Priel, were suspected in the deaths after initially giving conflicting recounts to police.

Priel told police Bell asked him to, "go with him to a guy's house to get some stuff," and that Bell asked him to wait outside, according to a probable cause affidavit.

After his arrest, police said Bell admitted that Priel had asked him if he knew where he could steal a PlayStation 3 and Xbox, and Bell said he volunteered his friend, Jeremy Crane, and took Priel to his home.

"Bell stated that Priel told everyone to get down on the ground and that while Jeremy Crane was lying down, Jeremy Priel walked over him and shot him," read part of the probable cause affidavit.

Bell told police that Priel shot Jeremy Crane again when he heard him make a gasping sound.

Bell said he didn't see Kyleigh Crane get shot because he ran out of the house before he heard the shot, although police noted that no one else in the area reported hearing a shot, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Police said they found the gun used in the slayings under the bed of a woman Bell had been staying with.

Days later, two men came to Cumberland police to say that they had bought an Xbox 360 and
PlayStation 3 from Jeremy Priel, paying $40 and an ounce of marijuana, according to the probable cause affidavit.

"The PlayStation 3 appeared to have had blood on it when they bought it, so as the news coverage of the homicide on Woodlark began to release information about their being an Xbox and PlayStation 3 taken, the men became suspicious and decided to contact police," according to the probable cause affidavit.

Prosecutors were seeking life without parole for Bell, but since he pleaded guilty to the charges, they agreed to a plea bargain. 

"The issue is to show that he is not the person who shot Jeremy and Kyleigh Crane, and this plea gave him an opportunity to do that," said Ray Casanova, Bell's attorney.

If convicted, Bell would get 50 years for each murder for a total of 100 years in prison. As part of the agreement, Bell must testify against Priel when he goes to trial. If he doesn't, Bell's plea agreement will be dropped.

Prosecutors said they got consent from the Crane family for the plea deal.

"Their mindset over the course of the last year and a half had been for a trial, but with 100 years stipulated, and there is no appellate right, I guess this gives them some resolution to this defendant in this case," said Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson.

Bell's sentencing hearing was scheduled for Aug. 9. Priel's pretrial hearing was scheduled for April 17.

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