Kenneth Bell arrested last week, charged with child molestation

A Blackshear man who stole a vehicle, led law enforcement officers on a high speed chase, swam across the Satilla River to escape and spent four days at large has been arrested and charged with child molestation and a rash of other charges.

Kenneth Bell, 33, of Blackshear, was taken into custody about 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, in the College Avenue/St. Johns area of the county.

Bell has been charged with aggravated child molestation, theft of motor vehicle, fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement. Bell is also charged with a number of misdemeanor offenses.

Sheriff Ramsey Bennett said the circumstances that led to the molestation charge are “very bad.”

The sheriff declined to give details surrounding the case, citing the ongoing investigation and to protect the identity of the victim. The victim is reportedly “a close relative.”

The sheriff  issued a special thank you to the public for their efforts in helping law enforcement find and arrest Bell.

“I can’t point to any one call that helped us make the arrest but I can say that the many tips we received helped us track him and put the pressure on him so that we could find him,” the sheriff said.

The case involving Bell began Saturday morning when Bell allegedly stole a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox from a Nola Road address.

Blackshear Police Officer Robbie Gill spotted the vehicle on College Avenue a short time later. When he attempted to stop the car, Bell reportedly fled at speeds in excess of 90 m.p.h. down Georgia Highway 121 South to Molly Branch Road, Voight Bridge Road and Old River Road to the FFA camp.

Law enforcement officers believed they had Bell “boxed in” when they discovered that he had escaped by swimming across the Satilla River to Brantley County.

Sightings were reported in both Brantley and Bacon Counties and here locally, in Pierce County, until Bell was arrested Tuesday.

Bell attempted to flee again Tuesday by swimming across a pond on the property where he was arrested. Two officers reportedly jumped in after him this time and additional officers were waiting on the other bank of the pond, just in case.

Witnesses of the scene complimented local law enforcement for the handling of the situation.

“They didn’t hesitate. They jumped right into the pond after him and the pond has been known to have a four foot alligator and moccasins swimming around in it,” said one witness who asked that she not be identified.

The landowner also offered officers use of his boat to go out and pursue Bell.

“The officers were all very professional even though they were soaked and covered in mud,” said the witness. “I was very impressed. The law’s motto is to protect and serve and I have no doubt they would jump in and try to protect us. They did their jobs and did it well.”

Blackshear PD and Pierce County Sheriff’s Office were involved in the pursuit. In addition to the county charges, BPD has charged Bell with fleeing/attempting to elude (a felony), reckless driving, obstruction of an officer and numerous traffic violations.