Man posed as meter reader to murder romantic rival, prosecutors say

Posted at 8:56 PM, Oct 26, 2016

CHICAGO – A Chicago man is accused of posing as a meter reader to murder his romantic rival before setting the victim's house on fire, according to prosecutors.

Willie Bell, 44, allegedly dressed as a utility worker in order to enter 48-year-old Timothy Lawrence’s home in the city's Morgan Park neighborhood last September.

Bell was denied bail Tuesday during a hearing at Cook County court; he faces charges of first-degree murder and concealment of a homicide.

“The actions of the defendant were cold, calculating and pre-planned,” Judge James Brown said during the hearing, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The only reasonable order would be an order of no bail.”

Prosecutors said the two had been dating the same woman and Bell became jealous after his girlfriend left him for Lawrence.  His posts on Facebook became increasingly angry leading up to the murder, according to prosecutors.

Willie Bell (Chicago Police Dept.)

Willie Bell (Chicago Police Dept.)

Surveillance video shows Bell on Sept. 12, dressed in a reflective workman's vest and helmet, walking around Lawrence’s house.

Prosecutors say Lawrence, who had never met Bell, opened the door to invite him in.  Once inside, Bell allegedly shot Lawrence in the head, killing him.

Surveillance cameras recorded Bell leaving the house about an hour later wearing a T-shirt that read "I'm that dude," prosecutors said, according to DNAinfo Chicago. Bell then allegedly stole the victim's 2004 Buick LeSabre and used it to buy gasoline before returning to Lawrence's home with an accomplice two days later.

Surveillance video recorded Sep. 14 shows the two entering the home shortly before fire destroyed the cameras. Firefighters rushed to the address, but the house exploded while they were en route.

Lawrence's body was recovered from the charred wreckage.  Authorities determined he had been shot in the head, prosecutors said.