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Double Murderer Executed in Electric Chair; Called Himself Son of God

October 4, 1996 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A man who claimed to be Jesus was executed in the electric chair early today for killing two girls in 1985 by wrapping their heads with duct tape. One of the murders was the basis for a TV movie.

Larry Gene Bell, 47, made no final statement, but he had said that his execution would deliver him to heaven.

He was convicted of killing 17-year-old Shari Faye Smith and 9-year-old Debra Helmick about two weeks apart. He kidnapped them from their homes, in neighboring counties, and suffocated them with the tape.

Before he was captured, Bell taunted Shari’s family with telephone calls describing how he killed her.

Police caught him by connecting him to an imprint of a phone number found on a will he made Shari write to her family. The 1991 CBS movie ``Nightmare in Columbia County″ was based on the case.

Bell also was suspected in a third killing, that of Sandee Elaine Cornett, a 26-year-old insurance adjuster and part-time model from Charlotte, N.C. He denied abducting and killing her but teased investigators with descriptions of where Cornett’s body was buried _ even drawing a map.

Police never found her.

Bell’s lawyers had argued in appeals that the former electrician from Gilbert was too mentally ill to be executed. But a circuit court judge ruled last week that Bell was competent.

Mental health experts and Bell’s lawyers had said he was schizophrenic, believed he was Jesus and wanted to die in the electric chair because he saw it as a direct path to heaven and God’s throne. Prosecutors said it was all an act.