by Jim Boyle
Cory Daniel Bell sat before Judge Thomas D. Hayes less than two years ago when the 10th District Court judge sentenced him for burglary and assault with a knife that he used to slash an Elk River man’s neck.
Hayes spoke at length to Bell about the mystery of the offense that a jury found him guilty of committing.
Last Friday Bell, 23, was before Hayes again, this time for an even more heinous crime that had already been committed in 2006 but had gone unsolved.
“My position still hasn’t changed,” Hayes said of his bewilderment over the defendant’s crimes.
Hayes described Bell as a dangerous individual from whom society needed protection. He sentenced Bell to the longest possible consecutive sentences he could. They total 345 months and won’t begin until he finishes his sentence in Stillwater for what he did to Keith Glenn and his Elk River family.
The earliest that he will be finished with his current sentence is Sept. 27.
With good behavior, Bell will serve at least 230 months. The commissioner of corrections has the ability to tack on more time for bad behavior, Hayes noted.
A Sherburne County jury found Bell guilty of all four counts of Leah Emmans’ criminal prosecution, including two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, burglary in the first degree and assault with a dangerous weapon in the second degree.
The jury also agreed there were aggravating factors, including that his victim could not flee because she had a child in the home at the time of the assault and that she had been violated in multiple forms.
Emmans asked Hayes for the maximum sentence, including upward departure for each of the aggravating factors found by the jury and for them to be consecutive with one another and with the initial sentence.
“We ask you to maximize every day of the sentence,” Emmans said.
Bell’s attorney, John Leunig, argued for a leaner sentence. He challenged Hayes ability to tack on consecutive sentences to his current sentence. He also took issue with the comments from Emmans about additional aggravating factors that the jury did not find. He asked the court to weigh only the findings of the jury and offered that all rape cases include horrendous factors.
“It’s the court’s duty to weigh the (factors) found by a jury and ask if they make this substantially more terrible,” Leunig said.
Bell’s attorney went on to request a sentence of 144 months, which is greater than what sentencing guidelines called for at the time of the crime.
“I don’t think what the state is asking for is permissible,” Leunig said. “I don’t think it’s allowed under sentencing guidelines.”
He suggested Hayes could do the upward departures or make the sentences consecutive but not both.
When Bell was asked by Hayes if he wanted to say anything, he said “No, your honor.” He sat stone still throughout most of the sentencing hearing.
His victim read a victim impact statement that brought the courtroom back to July 22, 2006 — the day before her assault and rape.
“It started out as such a beautiful weekend,” she told the courtroom.
She and her daughter had completed the invitations for her sixth birthday. They were both eager for the big party — her first to be held at a water park. This splendid day continued with a trip to the beach.
But when this woman put her head on her pillow that night and went to sleep, she had no idea her life would never be the same.
She awoke to Bell — a stranger — putting his hand over her mouth, being suffocated and threatened by him that he would kill her if she didn’t follow his instructions.
He proceeded to rape her, violating her in multiple ways — all while the victim’s daughter slept in a room next to hers.
The victim told the court last Friday one of her overriding fears was that her daughter would awake to find her mother dead in a pool of her own blood.
There were times that Bell reportedly put the knife down, but fearing the ramifications for her daughter she chose not to make a run for it.
She addressed the judge as directed and told him that Bell was not only a rapist but the murderer of whom “I once was.”
Bell shook his head back and forth ever so slightly at this statement.
The victim highlighted some of the ways — but not the 1,000s of ways — this crime against her impacted her.
She said she suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder to this day. She has needed seven abdominal surgeries. She said the relationship between her and her son has suffered, as a wall between them has gone up. She said some other extended family members have been unable to grasp what has happened in a way that puts them on the same page as one another. And she has struggled to protect her daughter through the years, constantly fearful that knowledge of the fateful night would destroy her own being.
For surviving at all, she credited her faith in God. But her creator has not stopped her from sleepless nights or night terrors.
She has moved six times since the assault, and she said she recently lost her job of 20 years due to the amount of missed work due to appointments made necessary by the aftereffect of the crime.
She said Bell stole her life.
Elk River police may never have arrested Bell for the 2006 assault had Glenn’s son, Christopher, not chased Bell down after the crime he committed against Keith Glenn. He was able to catch him and hold him in a headlock until police arrived.
The rape victim lived in fear for more than three years after her assault, not knowing where her assailant was or if he would ever be found.
He was charged with the crime on Dec. 21, 2009, after DNA taken after the Glenn burglary and assault case was prosecuted linked Bell to the 2006 crime.
Judge Hayes has held restitution open, included a 10-year conditional release and made a point to add this crime makes it mandatory for Bell to be registered as a predatory sex offender.
Keith Glenn and his wife sat next to each other at Bell’s sentencing.
Up until Bell was found guilty of the rape, they figured they would have to sell their home and move.
“There’s no way I would have stayed here if he was getting out (in 2011),” Glenn said after the jury rendered its verdict in the rape case last year. “The verdict made me happy for me and Judy, and it made me happy for her (Bell’s victim).”
Members of the Elk River Police Department and the Sherburne County Attorney’s Office were also on hand for the sentencing. They have expressed pride in their work, but mostly they have expressed being pleased for the victim.