TEXARKANA — A Paris man will face child sexual abuse charges as a result of a decision Friday by the Sixth District Appeals Court in Texarkana.
A Lamar County Grand Jury indicted 43-year-old Billy John Bell on first degree felony charges in November 2016. District Judge Wes Tidwell dismissed the indictment before a March 2019 trial and the Texarkana court reversed the decision.
“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with our arguments in the case,” Lamar County District Attorney Jill Drake said Friday. “This case had been pending since November, 2016, and was set for jury trial when the Court dismissed the indictment against the defendant. Today’s ruling will put us back in a ‘trial ready’ status and give our victim the opportunity to have her day in court.”
In November 2006, a 16-year-old girl reported sexual abuse by Bell to the Paris Police Department and within a week Child Protective Services conducted an interview during which the juvenile provided no information, according to court records. The agency issued a letter to the Paris PD in January 2007 stating the case was closed. The agency ultimately destroyed records relating to the case after five years, in conformity with the agency retention schedule, court records reveal.
In August 2016, the same person reported concerns about possible abuse of her young son, court records indicate. During an interview with a Paris detective, the accusations she made in 2006 were discussed, and in November 2016 Bell was indicted as a result of statements the alleged victim made about incidents in 1999 and 2000.
The appeals court reversed Tidwell’s decision to dismiss the indictment because Bell did not show the state acted in bad faith nor that records from the 2006 investigation “played a significant role in the suspect’s defence,” the appeals court opinion states.
Drake said she would try the case as soon as possible.