She Blames Her Step Daughter’s Death On The Girl’s Sister. Do You Believe Her?

[Norfolk, VA]

20 month old Anna Bell’s parents, Heather and Brandon shared custody of her and her older sister who was 8 years old.

Brandon eventually found a new woman to spend his life with named Emily Defries. She was an ex-navy, single mother who he met online. Within a few months of dating, Emily mentioned the idea of moving in. Brandon warned her that his 8 year old daughter had a few behavioral issues and had major outbursts. Despite hearing this, Emily still moved in with her young son and took on the role of step mother to Anna and her old sister.

Eventually, Brandon proposed to Emily and everyone was happy, except the 8 year old. “She made it very clear on the car ride home that she was not happy about us getting engaged”, Emily said. The very next morning after the engagement on May 18, 2014, Emily planned to stay home with the children while Brandon went off to work. Emily texted Brandon “Got the kids watching Curious George and I’m doing my unemployment claim.” A little while later, Emily took her son and her 8 year step daughter outside while Anna took a prolonged nap. Emily said she couldn’t remember how long the girl was sleeping.

At 5:30pm, Emily reentered the home and found Anna laying at the bottom of the stairs. She thought “her color wasn’t good,” so she called 911. Emily was frantic on the phone call and did CPR on Anna until the paramedics got there. The 20 month old was rushed to the hospital, but passed away from her injuries.

An autopsy proved that her injuries were indeed consistent with a fall, but the bruises, bumps, and lacerations on Anna’s body confirmed that something more sinister happened. The medical examiner lost count of how many bruises were on her back. Anna had a skull fracture over 4 inches long. Her arm was dislocated from a twisting or pulling. She also had hemorrhaging in her eyes, bruising on her stomach, and marks on her neck. Emily was the only adult that was home when Anna was killed so police were quick to question her.

She told them that she never saw any of those injuries occur and didn’t know what happened. According to Emily, Anna’s 8 year old sister was completely capable of causing those injuries and pushing her sister down the stairs.

However, the prosecution claimed that Emily was the perpetrator. On that fatal day, she wanted to focus on wedding planning after her engagement, and Anna wouldn’t go down for her nap. Emily got frustrated not only shook Anna, but slammed her head on the floor or wall. Then she placed her at the bottom of the stairs to stage it as an accident.

Emily was arrested and charged with second degree murder and malicious wounding.

Despite the intense interrogation and being charged, Emily’s story stayed the same and she refused a pleading guilty to her charges for a deal. “I’m not going to plead guilty to something I didn’t do”, she said. Instead, she kept insisting that the angry 8 year old with resentment and constant spells of anger was responsible for Anna’s murder. According to Emily, once the children went outside, the 8 year old wandered back into the house for over 30 minutes before Emily went back in herself.

“I know someone in that house, other than myself, that I know is capable of causing each and every one of those injuries”, Emily cried.

Brandon Bell confirmed that his 8 year old daughter was known to have anger issues and that she had lashed out at her 20 month old sister before. He agreed to testify about these details. The little 8 year old girl was also called up to testify. When asked questions related to hurting her little sister, the girl often replied with “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember.” She admitted that she did go into her sister’s room while she was sleeping but did not hurt her.

One of Anna’s bruises could have supported the narrative that the 8 year old was involved. According to Emily’s defense attorney, in one of the bedrooms was a set of bunk beds that had drawers connected to it. The handle of the drawer was crescent shaped and matched one of the bruise shapes on Anna. The attorney claimed that this could suggest that the 8 year old woke her sister from the nap and threw her into the drawers which would also cause further blunt force trauma.

Despite testimonies, the evidence made jurors lean toward the fact that Emily was the killer. She was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

“Why was her life only worth 20 years?”, asked Heather who is Anna’s mother.

At first, Brandon stood by Emily and supported her, but no longer does and broke the relationship off.

22. Sociology & Criminal Justice Major. True Crime Fanatic. Writer. All articles are tossed together from the comfort of my couch.