RI fugitive captured in Washington after decade on the run

Mugshots courtesy of the FBI

SPOKANE, Washington (WPRI) — After evading police for more than 10 years, an accused child molester and one of Rhode Island’s most wanted fugitives has been apprehended in Washington State.

According to the FBI, James W. Bell was arrested Wednesday in Spokane on a federal warrant.

Bell, 61, was wanted for the alleged molestation of three girls – then aged 9 to 13 – while he worked as a gymnastics coach at the Middletown YMCA.

Investigators in the FBI’s Boston Division received a tip that Bell might be in the area of Spokane, and he was taken into custody once that was confirmed.

Bell was arrested in his home state of Washington in August of 2003 and brought back to Rhode Island to be arraigned on molestation charges. He was released on bail, then failed to appear for a pretrial conference the following July, according to the FBI.

A local warrant was put out for his arrest for violating his probation and bail, then in 2006, a federal warrant was issued on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

“Mr. Bell thought he could run away and hide from the law, but he underestimated the FBI’s resolve to track him down,” said Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, in a statement. “We’d like to thank everyone who had the courage to call us with their tips as well as our law enforcement partners for their outstanding cooperation.”

Bell will be held in Washington pending extradition to Rhode Island.

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