Twenty-year-old Darione Bell was found guilty in Vidalia on Thursday (Oct. 15) for the savage murders of three Levee Heights residents on November 16, 2019.
The 12-member jury deliberated for 25 minutes before delivering its unanimous verdict on three counts of first degree murder and one count of aggravated burglary.
The trial was held in the courtroom in the Concordia Parish Courthouse.
The murder victims included 85-year-old Rosey Hooper, a hospice patient, and her two sons, 67-year-old Johnny Hooper and 65-year Ellis Hooper. The three lived together at 113 Weaver Street in Levee Heights, which is perpendicular to Highway 425 near Ferriday.
District Attorney Brad Burget and 1st Assistant DA Joey Boothe called multiple witnesses for the state who described a horrific crime scene.
Evidence indicated Bell stood over the bed of a defenseless Rosey Hooper and stabbed her 30-plus times, causing so many head wounds that the coroner could not specify a precise number.
Johnny Hooper was beaten with a bar stool and stabbed multiple times.
Ellis Hooper was stabbed multiple times while lying in bed. He attempted to flee, leaving bloody handprints on the wall before collapsing to the floor.
Beneath his body was the murder weapon, a filet knife. It was severely bent due to its impact with the bones and skulls of the victims.
“It was evil unleashed,” Boothe said Monday of the triple homicide. “Rage. Overkill.”
Burget said the motive was robbery and that the evidence against Bell was overwhelming, including DNA and video footage.
Judge John Reeves presided over the four-day trial. Sentencing is set for October 28.
Andy Magoun defended Bell.
Evidence presented during the trial indicated that on the night of the murders, Bell had arrived at 110 Weaver Street, a vacant house where he was staying. His arrival time was 2:17 a.m. A bar owner from Vidalia had given Bell the ride home.
Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators obtained video from two security cameras located at a residence in the neighborhood. Images show that two minutes after being dropped off at 110 Weaver, Bell was spotted walking to 117 Weaver. He knocked on the window and door, but no one answered.
From there, he walked to the home of the Hoopers at 113 Weaver and entered the house. He stayed inside for 21 minutes before exiting with a television set. He placed the television down on the lawn at the 110 Weaver residence and returned to the murder scene where he entered the house again and remained inside for 13 minutes.
When he left the Hooper residence this time, he walked down Weaver in the direction of U.S. 425 and two minutes later returned. Video footage showed him retrieving the television set and walking to the middle of the street before placing it on his head and walking back toward the highway.
The last time he is seen on video is at 3:04 a.m.
Minutes later, at 3:29 a.m., CPSO received a call that someone had attempted to break into the residence of Charles Lyles Sr. located nearby at 207 Kennedy Street. During his testimony at the trial, Lyles, who is 79, said he had fallen asleep on the couch. Earlier in the evening, he had fried catfish and opened a kitchen window to air out the room.
Suddenly, he heard a loud knocking on the door. He yelled out, “Who’s there?”
Someone answered, “Toolu and Jasmine.”
Jasmine is Lyles daughter and Charles Lyles testified that he knew the defendant, Darion Bell, as “Toolu.” Bell was alone.
Lyles told him to go away but instead, Bell kicked in the door. Armed with a pipe, he took a swing at Lyles but the blow was deflected when the pipe hit and shattered a glass light fixture making it sway. Lyles retreated and retrieved a .22 rifle and shot at Bell but failed to connect as Bell jumped out the open window, landing on a piece of tin and running around the side of Lyle’s mobile home.
Bell had run out of his shoes, leaving his sandals behind on Lyle’s floor.
Lyles pursued Bell but did not shoot again after observing a car traveling on the street.
Lyles daughter, Jasmine, lives nearby and had arrived home seconds after the break-in of her father’s home. She saw the light fixture swinging in the living room after it had been hit by Bell. Concerned for her father’s safety, she exited her home in route to her father’s house when she observed Bell running down the street.
Arming herself with a power tool, she gave chase for a short while before Bell vanished in the distance. She immediately contacted CPSO and soon investigators arrived. They took photos of the crime scene at Lyle’s house and found Bell’s sandals.
Police went to Bell’s residence at 110 Weaver but observed no one at the residence. At that time, no one knew of the grisly crime scene at 113 Weaver.
However, at 7:20 the next morning, the daughter of Rosey Hooper went to the Hooper residence to check on her mother, who was unable to care for herself or walk. Inside, she discovered her mother’s mutilated face and contacted CPSO.
Sgt. Chris Goad was the first to arrive at the scene. He found the lifeless bodies of Rosey Hooper and her two sons. Johnny Hooper was found in the kitchen, Ellis Hooper lying on the floor beside his bed.
CPSO investigators found the murder weapon under the body of Ellis Hooper as they worked the crime scene.
Around 8:20 a.m., deputies returned to 110 Weaver and saw movement inside. Bell was found inside the residence and arrested.
By then, as news of the attacks on Lyles and the Hoopers spread, a crowd, frightened and angered over the events of the night, gathered outside.
“Deputies immediately took Mr. Bell into custody and left the scene,” Burget said Monday.
When a jailer observed blood on Bell’s clothing, his earlobe and right hand, Lt. Chris Groh retrieved the clothing and took samples of the blood.
When interviewed, Bell denied any knowledge of the murder, Burget said, claiming that he (Bell) was drunk and could remember nothing. Several times, Bell changed his story on what he did once arriving at 110 Weaver.
Blood from the victims was found on Bell’s clothing and blood from Bell’s earlobe was that of Ellis Hooper. Blood found on the stolen television taken from the Hooper residence was matched to Rosey Hooper. Blood on Bell’s hoodie and undershirt was from all the victims. Blood from Bell’s pants was a match for Johnny Hooper’s.
The sandals found at the Lyle residence had blood matching all three murder victims.
“The evidence was overwhelming,” Burget said.
Another son of Mrs. Hooper’s, Warren Neal, submitted DNA. The test revealed that he was the biological father of Darione Bell, meaning that Bell had murdered his two uncles and his grandmother.
However, it is not believed that Bell was aware of this. Warren Neal was in no way implicated in the killings, Burget said.
“It’s apparent to me that the motivation was robbery,” Burget said.
Burget said Bell had a history of attacking older citizens.
‘DIGNITY AND GRACE’
“Thank goodness” for Charles Lyles Sr., the man who fired a .22 rifle shot at Bell, Burget said. He said Lyles is a “pretty tough gentleman,” and by defending himself with the rifle not only saved his own life but his actions led to the arrest of Bell.
Burget commended the sheriff’s office for its investigation and thanked Charles Lyles and Jasmine Lyles for their court testimony, which helped secure the conviction.
Burget also said he appreciated the devotion of the Hooper family in seeing justice for their loved ones.
“The Hooper family has conducted themselves with dignity and grace,” he said. “They were patient and were there every day of the trial despite the horrific evidence presented during the week.”
Boothe said the efforts made by the family in seeking justice was a testament to their devotion to Rosey Hooper and her two sons.
This case was the third triple homicide Burget has prosecuted in Seventh Judicial District in Concordia and Catahoula parishes during the past 12 years.
Conner Wood was found guilty in the 2007 killings of his mother, Geraldine (Jeri) Trevillion Wood, 40; his father, John David Wood, 42; and his friend, 16-year-old Matthew Whittington. The murders occurred at the Wood home in the Woodland Subdivision of Ferriday.
Now serving life sentences, Wood was 15 when at the time of the murders.
In a Catahoula case, Debbie Adams and her boyfriend Lee John Ponthieux were each convicted for the August 20, 2012, triple murder of Adams’ mother, Annie Bell Adams, 76; Debbie Adams’ sister, Edris R. “Ilene” Ellard, 51; and Debbie Adams’ brother-in-law and former husband, John “Bozo” Ellard Jr., 45, on August 20, 2012 in Larto.
Both Debbie Adams and Lee John Ponthieux are serving life sentences.