Men Charged In Cumberland Slayings Appear In Court

Michael Bell, 22, Jeremy Priel, 25, Face 156 Years In Prison

Two men charged with murder and robbery in the slayings of a Cumberland man and his 7-year-old niece appeared in court Thursday.

Michael Bell, 22, and Jeremy Priel, 25, were formally charged Wednesday with two counts each of murder and felony murder, and one count each of robbery and carrying a handgun without a license.

The men were arrested Sunday in connection with the Dec. 12 shooting deaths of Jeremy Crane, 21, and Kyleigh Crane, 7, in a home in the 600 block of Woodlark Drive.

At Thursday's hearing, a preliminary plea of not guilty was entered on behalf of both men. They were each appointed public defenders.

Bell and Priel have given conflicting accounts of the slayings.

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 the probable cause affidavit.

But police said video of Bell and Priel from an IndyGo bus taken shortly after the shootings shows Priel trying to wipe his prints off a gun, which he later admitted to, investigators said.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Bell initially denied knowing Priel or being with him the day of the slayings, but later changed his story to say it was Priel who went into the house and that he waited outside.

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," according to 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.

Two men came to Cumberland police Dec. 18 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.

Family members said Bell and Jeremy Crane were best friends and former classmates at Warren Central High School.

Prosecutors didn't indicate who they believe pulled the trigger.

"It's not required to prove who pulled the trigger under Indiana law. Both are equally culpable," said Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson. "Why impose on ourselves something the law doesn't require?"

A friend of Bell's who was in court Thursday said she didn't think he was capable of killing two people, especially a child.

"I don't think she shot the little girl or his friend. That's not the type of person he is," said Trisha Dunlap. "He did not shoot them."

If convicted on all counts, the men could face a maximum of 156 years in prison.

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