2 men held without bail in 1996 missing-person case

Police believe they found Arundel teen's remains in woods yesterday

January 09, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Early yesterday, Anne Arundel County authorities announced they had solved a 6-year-old missing-person case and were prepared to go forward with a murder trial even though the body had not been found.

By yesterday afternoon, detectives had recovered what they believe to be the skeletal remains of the missing Gambrills teen-ager, Joseph Aaron Demarest.

The two men arrested in the case were ordered held without bail after having been indicted on first-degree murder and other charges.

"We felt very good about the strength of the case without the body, and obviously this discovery makes it even stronger," said Lt. Joseph E. Jordan, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police Department.

Demarest's father last saw his 17-year-old son at the family's Red Fall Lane home Sept. 3, 1996.

Interviews with suspects and witnesses in the Demarest case led detectives to a shallow grave about 12 miles away, in a wooded area near the rural community of Wilson Town, police said.

A state medical examiner will use dental records to confirm the body's identity and will try to determine the cause of death, police said.

The Demarest case had been dormant until cold-case detectives began treating it as a homicide in early 2001, police said.

Christopher Allen Bolen, 23, of Gambrills and Stefan Tyson Bell, 25, of Waldorf were arrested without incident Tuesday.

Four days earlier, a county grand jury had returned an indictment - sealed until yesterday - charging the two with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Each could face the death penalty if convicted.

Demarest was last seen getting into Bell's red pickup truck, said Officer Charles Ravenell, a police spokesman. Bell and Bolen, friends of Demarest who lived in the same neighborhood, picked him up near his home, police said.

Police declined yesterday to provide details about the case. But they said they had discovered a motive and physical evidence in addition to the remains.

Reached at home yesterday, the missing boy's father, Michael Demarest, declined to talk, offering a written statement on behalf of his family.

Part of it reads: "We are very pleased that the two individuals ... have been arrested and that it appears that Joe's remains have been recovered."

The Demarests thanked two detectives, Rick Robinson and Mike Regan. "We are truly grateful that they didn't give up," the statement said.

Robinson and Regan are cold-case detectives, meaning they handle cases that have gone unsolved for years.

Shelly Madison in the homicide unit also investigated, Ravenell said.

Barbara Bolen, mother of one of the suspects, said that to her knowledge, her son hadn't spoken with or seen Bell in many years.

"He's a good kid, and he would help anybody," she said of her son, with whom she lives. "This is very upsetting."

Bolen and Bell appeared calm and composed at their bail review hearing yesterday afternoon in District Court, which they attended via video feed from the Jennifer Road Detention Center.

Bolen and Bell appeared calm at their bail review hearing yesterday in District Court.

Bell asked Judge Robert C. Wilcox to "reconsider at least giving me bail" because, he said, he is the sole breadwinner for his wife and infant son.

The public defender's office, which is representing both men, asked that Bolen be allowed to attend the funeral Thursday of the grandmother who raised him.

The prosecutor opposed the requests and Wilcox ordered them held without bail.

Before the remains were discovered, the state was set to prosecute the county's first "no-body" homicide case.

In the four days between the indictment and the arrests, police were "still working the case and obtaining further evidence," Ravenell said.

Bolen was picked up at 11 a.m. Tuesday at his home, and Bell was arrested as he left work at 8 a.m. that day.

Co-workers at the Waldorf veterinary clinic where Bell worked as a night-shift vet technician were stunned at his arrest, said Dr. Laura Stokking, who was at the clinic when police led Bell away in handcuffs.

"We're all devastated," Stokking said. "He's the sweetest person - this just does not fit with his personality at all."

Although Demarest's disappearance was long considered suspicious by police, they began considering it a homicide case when new witnesses came forward after an article was published in The Capital, a local newspaper.

Demarest's family is looking forward "to being able to finally have a memorial service and to be able to properly lay his body to rest," the family's statement read. "We are also grateful that we will be able to bring this period in all of our lives to a close."

Sun staff writer Lynn Anderson contributed to this article.

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