Family of missing man files petition to establish presumption of death

5 years later, family still searching for answers

Family of missing man files petition...

On Sept. 15, 2011, Charlie D. Bell disappeared and has not been seen since.

"I just didn't understand and it took me a really long time to come to terms with it, that he was gone," said his mother, Doris Boyce. "I wished for a long, long time that he would come back."

Now on the fifth anniversary of his disappearance, his father, Charles E. Bell, has filed a petition for a hearing to establish the presumption of death and apply for letters of administration. 

"Letters of administration is what they call the appointment of the personal representative who is going to administer your affairs," said Dan Simon, a Columbia attorney who specializes in estate planning, probate, wills and trusts. "They are going to find all your assets, figure out what debts you have and then see that your debts are paid. Whatever's left over, they will distribute that amongst the people who, according to law, get your assets."

Charlie D. Bell went missing in 2011 and was last seen on his motorcycle en route to Columbia. The Boone County Sheriff's Department considers his disappearance a homicide based on information from two people who said they saw Bell shot in his garage and evidence they found in his home.

Both those people are serving time in prison for tampering. 44-year-old Patrick Curl pleaded guilty and received a three year sentence to taking the license plate of Bell's motorcycle. 

35-year-old Jennifer Freeman admitted to concealing evidence by lying to deputies about the disappearance. She is serving six years in prison.

"It hurts to know that a person out there did that to him and nobody's paying for it," said Boyce.

Five years after a person's disappearance, an application can be filed for the letters of administration of the estate of "any person supposed to be dead," court documents revealed.

Charlie D. Bell did not leave behind a will, meaning his estate is intestate. 

As Simon explained, should the application be approved, Charles E. Bell, his father, would collect Charlie D Bell's assets and potentially divide them among the remaining intestate heirs: his three daughters.

Boyce said the court process has been taxing for the family both physically and emotionally, but they want to make sure Charlie D. Bell's daughters are supported.

 "It'll all get put in a trust for the kids, so we've taken care of that," said Boyce. "Going through a probate has not been fun at all."

The latest filing showed Charlie D. Bell had $1.2 million in real and personal property.

"The person that's appointed follows the rules that are set up by the law," said Simon. "There's no real discretion." 

According to the court documents, Charles E. Bell has been serving as the limited conservator to Charlie D. Bell's estate since February 2012. He has also been providing child support to Charlie D. Bell's three minor children.

The application said that "the applicant [Charles E. Bell] is entitled to the letters because his relationship to the deceased is his father and the sister and widow of the deceased have renunciated their right to serve and consented to [Charles E. Bell] serving and that such administration should be independent."

A notice must then be published once a week for four consecutive weeks, letting people know the application has been made and a notice that on a certain day, at least two weeks after the last publication of the notice, "the court will hear the evidence concerning the alleged absence of the supposed decedent," according to court documents. 

Boyce said there is still a $50,000 reward for anyone with information that would lead to Charlie's killer. She said one day she hopes Charlie can come home.

"Hopefully finding Charlie and being able to bury him would be really nice," she said.

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