In 2001 in Cantonment, a 14-year-old girl went missing after leaving a party, seemingly vanishing into thin air. Danielle Arion Bell was a student at Tate High School, a cheerleader, and a popular girl.
The case may be over a decade old, but Danielle’s mother shared new information with us and discussed allegations about local law enforcement mishandling the case.
In the WKRG archives, there’s a tape. On that tape, a story from 2004 about Danielle Bell, and how her family was continuing search efforts.
“Danielle Bell was last seen at a party on the night of September 30th, 2001…” the story begins.
It’s been over a decade since that story in 2004, but Danielle’s mother says the pain is still fresh.
“I mean, I knewFridayy… something was not right,” said Susan Bell from her front porch, as we sat and talked about Danielle. “When she didnt come back or come home or I didn’t hear from her, I mean… but by Sunday evening, I knew, and that’s when I called 911.”
The party Danielle was last seen at was in the 500 block of Cedar Tree Lane at Robert Louis Bassett Jr.’s house. Bassett was in his mid-twenties at the time.
He wasn’t the only older man Danielle hung around with. Alfredo Gomez Sanches Jr, 24 at the time, was in a sexual relationship with Danielle. He’s now serving 30 years in prison, just for crimes committed against Danielle, in addition to more time for other sex charges and intimidating a witness.
Just weeks before her disappearance, Susan says Danielle told her she thought she was pregnant, and Alfredo Sanchez was the father. Danielle was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment the week after she went missing.
“There’s too much evidence and things point to… she was murdered that night, ” Susan Bell said.
She also believes someone at the party that night knows what happened to her daughter.
“At the time I could understand because they were scared,” Susan said of why people wouldn’t come forward. “But it’s been years now. You’ve got kids of your own. So, you would be ok with somebody doing this to your kid? [That] is how I’m taking it.”
Susan Bell believes this case has lost interest over time, even saying it’s been years since she was called by anyone at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s been probably three years ago…” Bell said of the last time she spoke with an investigator. “I’m tired of hearing ‘I don’t have time because we’re understaffed.’ Figure it out,”
This is normally the part of the story where we would talk to law enforcement about the case and about the allegations Susan Bell has made about how the case has been handled. But, we had some trouble.
Early in the week, we reached out to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to request an interview about Danielle’s case. On Wednesday, ECSO said the case had been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, so we called them. On Thursday, the FDLE said they did not have the case, but they had assisted in the past. They deferred to the lead, ECSO. On Friday, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office did confirm hey had the case, but they declined to do an interview about Danielle Bell.
“They have messed this case up from the very beginning,” Susan Bell said. “They’ve lost evidence, they’ve lost paperwork… it’s just been ongoing with them.”
Susan Bell took a break from independently pursuing what happened to her daughter, saying mentally and emotionally it was too strenuous. After speaking to News 5, she said that’s going to change.
“I will be getting back into it like I was before,” Bell said. “I’m going to find out what the deal is. This time, I’m not taking no crap. I will go above your head, and I will do what I have to do.”
Susan Bell also said, as a mother who just wants to bury her daughter, she would be open to making deals with anyone who may have information, even if they were criminally involved.
Anyone who has information about what happened to Danielle Bell is encouraged to call the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office at 850-436-9620. You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.