COVINGTON - The Covington Police are saying that thanks to a little luck and a lot of good police work, a Newton County man is off the streets and facing a string of charges, including armed robbery, kidnapping and carjacking in conjunction with a recent crime spree in several jurisdictions.
Antonio Marvette Bell, 19, also known as Antonio Britt, of 290 Sunflower Lane, faces armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony charges in connection with the Fourth of July robbery of the Holiday Inn Express and Doster's Food Pride on Salem Road, which was held up the morning of July 2. In both incidents a sawed-off shotgun was used.
Law enforcement officials said earlier they believed the suspect in the Holiday Inn and Doster's robberies was also linked to an attempted armed robbery in Conyers in the parking lot of the Whistle Post Tavern. A sawed-off shotgun was also used in that incident; however, Bell has not been charged in the Conyers crime.
Bell was arrested early this week in Headland, Ala., where he was pulled over for speeding. While incarcerated in the Henry County Jail in Abbeville, Ala., Bell allegedly beat a jailer unconscious with a broken mop handle, stole his keys and attempted to escape. Other inmates restrained him until jailers could rescue their injured colleague and foil the escape.
"This is a bad guy. I don't think a lot of times the public really understands what kind of people we're dealing with out here," CPD Capt. Craig Treadwell said. "(Detective) D.J. (Seals) did a very good job along with the rest of the guys in this unit. They do a good job every day."
In addition to the armed robberies at the Holiday Inn and Doster's Food Pride, Bell is also a suspect in a DeKalb County carjacking, which also occurred July 4, during which a woman was kidnapped, and a March 10 robbery by intimidation incident in the parking lot of Salem Glen apartment complex on Salem Road.
Alabama authorities pulled Bell over for speeding earlier this week. It turned out he was in the vehicle stolen in DeKalb County and they notified DeKalb they had retrieved their stolen vehicle. Seals got wind of the Alabama arrest through DeKalb County as the agencies had been working together on the crimes that were all committed by a tall black man wielding a sawed-off shotgun.
Conyers Police Department detectives went to Alabama to question Bell about the Whistle Post incident, but Seals said the suspect wasn't very talkative and they were unable to tie him to the June 27 incident. The suspect also refused to talk with Alabama authorities concerning his alleged crime spree in Georgia.
The decision was made to send Seals to Alabama to confront the suspect about the Holiday Inn armed robbery.
Seals said because Bell had refused to talk to other officers, and because of the attack the night before on the Alabama jailer, he held out very little hope that Bell would talk with him.
However, after signing a waiver of his right to remain silent, Seals said Bell began to talk and the interview continued for 90 minutes.
"Something struck him. I don't know if it was something I said, or if it was just the day for it. He confessed to the Holiday Inn robbery, to the DeKalb County carjacking and what turned out to be a kidnapping. He confessed to robbing Doster's, and in the middle of all that, I found out he had been arrested for a strong-armed robbery in the (Newton) county, but he hadn't told them anything about it. He confessed to that to me," Seals said. "He confessed to all that, every single bit. He gave details you couldn't get otherwise. He remembered what he said to each person."
Seals said despite his other confessions, Bell maintained he was not the culprit in the Conyers incident.
"He insisted that he did not have anything to do with the Conyers armed robbery. He did give me information that could probably help them further their case," Seals said. "He didn't leave us high and dry on that."
Seals said he believes Bell was escalating dangerously.
"We're very glad to remove him from the streets," he said. "I don't think he was done. He is a violent offender who was ramping up his violence, which can be shown no clearer than with the jailer. That jailer was on the ground on his face after he struck him in the back of the head with that mop. He continued to strike him until he stopped moving and reached down and got his keys and was heading to the door when the inmates got him."
Seals said Bell told him he committed his crimes for money for "a haircut and clothes." When arrested, he was wearing the same clothes he allegedly wore while robbing the Holiday Inn and a sawed off shotgun was in the backseat of the stolen car.
"The gun was exactly what we expected our gun to look like," Seals said, adding that it was a "blued short barrel pump shotgun with a pistol-grip wood stock."
The woman who was kidnapped during the carjacking was uninjured and the jailer is expected to recover, Seals said.
"We already knew he was a violent offender. Now he's shown it. Now we know he has a propensity for true violence," Seals said. "We're very glad to remove him from the streets."
Barbara Knowles can be reached at email@example.com.