A St. Clair couple — who are accused of stealing from mailboxes throughout the county — each have been charged with four felonies.
Rachelle A. Bell, 41, and David L. Bell Sr., 38, who are married, were charged Friday, Oct. 11, in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court with two counts each of second-degree burglary and two counts each of stealing.
Rachelle Bell is being held in the Franklin County jail on a $75,000 cash or surety bond. David Bell is being held at the jail on a $75,000 cash-only bond.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and United States postal inspectors had been investigating the theft of mail from several areas in the county.
“A couple weeks prior to their arrest we began getting reports of mail theft,” said Sheriff Steve Pelton. “Much of this broke when a neighborhood watch group posted a photo of the vehicle stealing mail — it turned out to be them (the Bells).”
He added that mail had been reported stolen in several areas, including Beaufort, Gerald, Union, St. Clair and Lonedell.
The postal inspector will pursue federal charges for the mail theft, Pelton said.
On Oct. 8, county detectives were dispatched to the 2200 block of Mueller Lane, Leslie, when the property owner noticed someone had been staying at a vacant home there.
Investigators found evidence linking the suspects who burglarized the home to the theft of several pieces of mail stolen from the area. It appeared the suspects had been using the residence as a “safe house” to hide from law enforcement officers, Pelton said.
“We started looking for the suspects once we took the first call and developed leads,” Pelton noted.
Rachelle Bell and David Bell also are suspected of burglarizing a home in the 700 block of Bourbeuse Crossing, Leslie. The home was under construction and there were tools missing from the residence, Pelton said.
On Oct. 10, the suspects were located at a home in the 100 block of Persimmon Lane, Sullivan. Deputies recovered items stolen from the burglaries of the Leslie homes along with stolen mail.
The sheriff’s office and the U.S. postal inspectors encourage anyone who believes their mail has been stolen to file a report with the sheriff’s office at 636-582-2560.
Pelton thanked members of neighborhood watch groups in Franklin County who provided information that aided in the investigation.
“We preach that if you see something, say something,” he said. “This is a prime example of law enforcement and the community working together.”
Both of the suspects have prior felony convictions.
In 2016, Rachelle Bell pleaded guilty to distribution of a controlled substance, a Class B felony, in connection to a fatal drug overdose.
Officers with the Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit based in Franklin County arrested Bell following an investigation into the death of a 28-year-old St. Clair woman.
A detective with the unit said narcotics officers began an investigation after they were called to Missouri Baptist Hospital at Sullivan regarding the overdose death.
That initial investigation led officers to a home in the 200 block of Highway AB, north of St. Clair, where it was suspected that the victim had used meth.
Based on that information, officers later located Bell. Bell allegedly had 10 to 12 grams of meth in individual bags in her purse when she was arrested.
Investigators allege that when the victim showed signs of overdosing, Bell and a man, who was not identified, put the woman in a car, then went to a gas station where they purchased five bags of ice. They placed the ice on the victim, then drove her to the hospital.
The substance found in Bell’s purse was identified as methamphetamine laced with an opioid, most likely heroin.
Bell was given five years’ supervised probation in lieu of a seven-year prison sentence for the drug distribution charge. She was released early from the probation term, according to court records.
The sentence ran concurrent with a 2015 charge of stealing a motor vehicle.
In February 2016, David Bell eluded deputies following a high-speed chase that ended with Bell crashing a stolen vehicle on private property off Highway O.
Bell abandoned the car and fled into a wooded area. Deputies searched, but did not locate him that day.
Two days later, Bell was found by deputies hiding in a closet at a home in the 2000 block of Schuchart Park Road.
The initial pursuit began with a patrolling deputy who spotted a blue, Jeep Cherokee westbound on Highway AT, near the Highway 100 intersection. The vehicle matched the description of one reported stolen from the city of Union two days prior.
The deputy initiated a traffic stop, but Bell drove off with the officer in pursuit. The driver continued west and turned onto Highway O, then turned onto a private road, crashing through a gate.
Bell then drove around several grain bins in a barn lot on the property before crashing into a chunk of concrete and one of the grain bins.
With the vehicle disabled, Bell and a female passenger then fled on foot. The deputy caught the female, but Bell ran across Highway O and into a wooded area.
In June 2016, under a plea deal, Bell was sentenced to three years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for a felony charge of stealing a vehicle, according to court records. The sentence ran concurrent with a 2014 charge of distribution of narcotics.
Rachelle Bell, then with the last name of Ward, David Bell, and two others were arrested in 2012 for suspicion of endangering the welfare of a child.
During the investigation into a suspected meth lab at a home in southern Franklin County, there were three children in the home that were placed in protective custody with the Division of Family Services.
Deputies on patrol detected a strong chemical odor and traced it to a home in the 3000 block of Oklahoma School Road, south of the Meramec River.
When they arrived, deputies saw a man come out of the house, then go back inside when he noticed the officers. Another suspect attempted to flee on foot but was caught near a wood line. He was taken into custody after putting up some minor resistance. One suspect was found hiding in a closet.
Deputies reported finding methamphetamine and meth-making components in a concrete block outbuilding on the property.