A&E's docuseries Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole tells the unfortunate stories of juvenile offenders who were sentenced to life behind bars before the Supreme Court determined that the punishment was a cruel and unusual one for minors.
The series looks into the cases of these imprisoned juvenile offenders who are now receiving resentencing hearings, years after the crimes they've committed. While some offenders will be resentenced to life, others are granted clemency or immediately released.
The series looks at one young man per episode, and Episode 8 centers on Ronald Bell, who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he committed back in 1999, when he was 17. But what did Ronald do and where is he today? Keep reading to find out.
Why was Ronald Bell sentenced to life behind bars?
Ronald was just a few months shy of his 18th birthday on February 2, 1999, when he found out that a man by the name of Cordell Richards was allegedly making sexual advances toward his girlfriend, Kristel Maestas, and her friend, Renee Lincks.
The three of them proceeded to kidnap, torture, and eventually kill Richards over the course of two days. The attack began at Richards' apartment in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. when the group beat him with a baseball bat severely enough to break bones.
The three of them then tied the victim up and took him out of his house and chained him to a tree where they continued clubbing him. Bell then poured an accelerant on Richards and the group lit him on fire.
They left him to die, but returned the next day to find Richards alive and trying to call for help. That's when they bought a meat cleaver, slit his throat, and returned the cleaver to Target for a refund, according to court documents.
Ronald Bell initially got the death penalty.
The youngest member of the group, Lincks, was 15 at the time of the murder, and served 13 years for her role in the crime after testifying against her co-defendants. She was released in 2012.
As for Bell, he was originally sentenced to the death penalty for his role in the crime, but the Florida Supreme Court revoked that sentence in 2002, saying that Circuit Court Judge Thomas Remington hadn't properly considered the fact that Bell was under age when the crime was committed.
What happened at Bell's resentencing hearing? Where is he today?
Cordell Richards had been missing for about a month when a 12-year-old was playing and discovered a badly decomposed body on March 4, 1999.
And now, more than 20 years after the crime, Bell and his co-defendant and ex-girlfriend Maestas, who was 16 at the time, received a mandatory resentencing hearing after the Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without parole were unconstitutional for minors.
The two, now in their 30s and having spent more than half of their lives in prison, appeared before a judge in April 2019. Bell was resentenced to life in prison for one count of first-degree murder, plus a consecutive life sentence for kidnapping with a weapon.
"The only thing I can say is my family and I are still in shock we had to go through this in court," the victim's daughter said after the hearing. "I thank God the judge found the wisdom to rule the way he did."
Watch Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on A&E.