Woman accused of fatally stabbing, strangling Faribault man had been staying with him for months, police chief says

Faribault police chief discusses homicide investigation

Faribault police chief discusses homicide investigation

Faribault Chief of Police John Sherwin on Monday said the woman accused of the gruesome murder of Gary Lehmeyer, 76, was living with him off and on for a few months before Lehmeyer’s death.

“I believe that they met through correspondence while she was incarcerated,” Chief Sherwin said in his first one-on-one interview regarding the case. “They had a relationship, from what our investigation can determine, that extended back to at least around Thanksgiving where she was living in his residence on and off.”

The suspect, 32-year-old Arlene Bell, was charged with second-degree murder and motor vehicle theft late last week after she was arrested in Iowa driving Lehmeyer’s van, according to the criminal complaint.

Police discovered Lehmeyer’s body during a welfare check to his home on Feb. 5. The 911 call came from a medical professional who came in on a scheduled visit and discovered the scene, Sherwin explained.

“I think there’ll be more that’s released once the final autopsy results come in, detailing the extent of the injuries and the struggle, but certainly, it was a violent death,” he said.

In what the chief referred to as a “unique” turn of events, investigators discovered that Bell was already in custody in Iowa on unrelated drug charges about three hours before officers were first dispatched to the home on Mitchell Drive. She was pulled over in the victim’s car, according to the criminal complaint.

“It’s a routine traffic stop that led to an investigation where he felt she was under the influence,” Sherwin explained.

Later in the day, Faribault police sent out an alert about Lehmeyer’s missing vehicle, and the “pieces start[ed] to fall into place,” he continued.

“When our investigators talked to that trooper, he indicated something didn’t seem right. She had mentioned she was driving to Cancun through Mexico,” Sherwin said.

According to the criminal complaint, Bell admitted to stabbing Lehmeyer multiple times two days prior, claiming she “got scared.”

The complaint said Bell told investigators that Lehmeyer “bled to death” and then she “bound … his feet or hands” and wrapped him in blankets because she was “scared he was going to wake up and hurt her.”

“There’s other evidence that will come to light that will point out that, you know, this isn’t, despite what she may have said, a version of self-defense,” Sherwin responded to the suspect’s account of events.

“Again, we’re we’re only hearing her side of the story, not our victim’s, and we’ll let the evidence speak for itself and other results from our investigation speak for itself.”

The complaint stated the cause of death to be stabbing wounds and strangulation. It also noted that Lehmeyer had been suffering from Parkinson’s dementia for a decade, and according to a family member cited in the document, he “could not walk at the time of the homicide.”

Neighbors also noted Lehmeyer’s difficulty getting around to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Sherwin also noted Bell’s criminal history, adding, “This is not the first time they’ve been arrested for a violent assault.”

Bell is scheduled for an extradition hearing in Iowa later this week. Sherwin said police are not looking for additional suspects at this time, but the investigation continues.

He applauded the officers and detectives in his department and the collaboration with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and law enforcement in Iowa for bringing criminal charges in the case.

“A type of incident like this takes considerable time and effort, and being a smaller agency, the officers who are involved in that — our detectives — spent hours in the weeks and days after this incident, making sure that their investigation is sound,” Sherwin said. “It was really a unique case and one that I’m proud of.”