Bello convicted of second-degree murder

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

A man accused of killing his cousin was found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday afternoon in 14th Judicial District

Court.

A jury of eight women and four men

deliberated about two hours before voting 10-2 to convict Eric Bello,

41. What verdict

the two wanted was not stated in court; in addition to not guilty,

the jury had the option to find Bello guilty of the lesser

crimes of manslaughter or negligent homicide.

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.

The defense never denied that Bello shot and killed Pauline Bryant on Nov. 4, 2008.

“I’m not asking you to say he’s not guilty,” defense attorney Michael McHale told the jury in his closing statements. “Don’t

convict him of the crime they want you to convict him of; convict him of the crime he did.”

Bello took the stand in his own defense Thursday morning. He said he was in an illicit relationship with Pauline Bryant, his

first cousin. He referred to her as “my wife” throughout his testimony, which involved several testy exchanges between him

and prosecutor David Kimball.

Bello repeatedly told both Kimball and McHale that he didn’t hear their questions or asked them to repeat the questions or

be more specific.

McHale said Bello had problems communicating. “He had problems communicating with me, and I’m his lawyer,” he told the jury.

Bello said a physical relationship began after Bryant said he could share her bed because of his back problems.

Kimball attempted to cast doubt on whether Bello and Bryant were in a relationship. The prosecutor said that was Bello’s story,

but that Bryant was not there to defend herself.

“The only testimony of a sexual relationship is coming from you,” Kimball said, suggesting it was a fantasy of Bello’s.

Bello claimed members of Bryant’s

family knew about the relationship. He said he killed Bryant after an

argument about her

talking to another man. He said he had talked to the man twice,

the first time telling him that Bryant was his wife and the

second time telling him “I love my cousin.”

Bello shot Bryant once through the

chest, striking her in the heart and lungs, Coroner Terry Welke

testified Wednesday. Bello

said he didn’t remember grabbing the gun or holding the gun, but

did remember it going off. He said he shot her at close range,

while they were standing “face to face.”

McHale asked what happened immediately after the shooting. Bello closed his eyes and took a moment to respond. “I realized

I just shot the woman I loved,” he said.

He said that in the time between when he shot her just before midnight on Nov. 4, 2008, and when he called police at 7:30

a.m. Nov. 6, 2008, he contemplated suicide and burned lavender and incense, two smells she liked.

He admitted shooting her on the 911 call, played in court.

Bello said he moved the body, placing it “respectfully” facedown on a blanket and two pillows in the home’s “office,” which

was the same room in which he shot her.

He said the blanket and pillows were in the room because he would sometimes rest there while working, but Kimball suggested

that he had planned the murder and placed them there ahead of time.