Ten years of police reports detail allegations of abuse, suicide attempts, molestation and total chaos at home of couple who adopted nine special needs children

A timeline of police reports connected to an Iowa home where a couple has been arrested for abusing their nine disabled children show a long history of abuse allegations that took years to result in criminal charges.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, John Elmer Bell, 55, and Joyce Marie Bell, 57, of Ankeny, Iowa were arrested this week on charges of felony child endangerment causing bodily injury.

The Des Moines Register published a list of police-involved incidents at the three-bedroom home where nine adopted children with special needs lived with the couple, dating back to 2007.

The 68 police reports range include numerous domestic calls, including calls the parents made about their children and vice versa, dead animals, suicide attempts, molestation, and murder threats within the family. The reports indicate there were guns in the home but there is no indication that any family members used the weapons against each other.

The nine children the Bells adopted now range in age from 16 to 38. The first documented police report is from August 2007, when a neighbor called police to report that John Bell was screaming at his children. The report says that Bell was angry at his children because they didn’t clean the basement.

Since that time, numerous calls made to police report purportedly out-of-control children who weren’t taking their medication, multiple runaways, and a welfare check request made by a neighbor in May 2010 that police logged as a resolved dispute over bathing before bedtime. From the Des Moines Register: 

A person calls to say she hears a man screaming inside the house, telling the kids to “get their f—ing a—s downstairs now,” and a bunch of kids were looking out the window like they needed help. The caller said the home is a known home for “handicapped kids” who are being treated unfairly and require a welfare check. Police report that “everything was OK. Kids were not wanting to take their baths before bedtime.”

In October 2013, Joyce Bell called the police to report that her daughter may have been molested by a relative who lived nearby. A week later, Joyce called police again to say that one of the girls in the home had been sexually assaulted and needed psychological treatment. When police responded to the call, they reportedly found no evidence of suicidal behavior or evidence of assault, and the girl said she did not want to go to the hospital for treatment.

The next month, both adoptive parents made separate calls about a daughter in the home who was reportedly cutting herself with glass and allegedly attacked her mother with glass.

In March 2015, Krystal Bell, who recorded video of her father’s alleged abuse of a younger sibling and shared it with authorities, a watchdog group, and on Facebook, called police to say that her parents were threatening her and that her father had pushed her against a wall, drawing blood. She noted in the call that guns were in the home. Later that year, Krystal called again to say that her younger brother told her on the phone that his parents were hurting him. When police responded, the parents reportedly said that the boy hadn’t taken his medication and was acting out.

In March of this year, Joyce Bell called police to say that a child in the home with bipolar disorder was threatening to kill everyone. The report says that police responded and calmed the child down.

Since then, eight calls were made from the home reported domestic disturbances, assaults, and “out of control” children. Joyce and John Bell were arrested last week, shortly after two teenage children were reportedly removed from the home and placed in a temporary shelter.


Feature photo: Polk County Jail