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April 13, 1998

Bomb fails to shatter woman's strength
Victim of attempted murder says, 'People need to know help is available'

TUMWATER - Rose Marie Bell thought the small box left for her 10 years ago might have been a gift. A few moments later, at 5:40 a.m. on April 8, 1988, the package tore her life apart.

When Bell opened the box, it exploded. The blast tossed her across the livingroom of her house in North Bend and slammed her against a wall. Stunned, she picked herself up. She felt warm.

"When I looked down at myself, I knew why," Bell recalled. "I was covered in blood."

An ambulance rushed her to the hospital. She almost died along the way. Doctors found shrapnel lodged in the carotid artery of her neck. They removed enough metal from her stomach to fill three sandwich baggies. The middle finger on her left hand had been blown off; her thumb on the same hand was severely severed. Bell had a hole in one leg where more bomb fragments had pierced the skin, narrowly missing a major artery.

Doctors performed three surgeries in the first week of her recovery. The blast also fractured both of her eardrums. Gunpowder from the bomb blinded her for two weeks.

Almost a decade later, Bell said she has recovered physically, for the most part. She has 80 percent hearing loss in her left ear that requires her to wear a hearing aid. She walks with a slight limp.

Police eventually arrested Bell's ex-husband and charged him with first-degree attempted murder. A first trial ended in a hung jury. A second jury found him guilty. A judge sentenced him to a 23-year prison term. But with time off for good behavior, he is due for release in 2001.

Although the physical injuries were traumatic, Bell, 43, said the mental anguish caused greater pain.

"I never thought that I would recover emotionally," Bell said. "For a while, I thought I was the only victim in the world. Fortunately, I came out on the other side."

Bell continues to recover. She is raising her two children and holds a job replacing water mains for the Belfair Water District.

"I'm doing well. My children are doing well. Life is very positive now," Bell said.

She is one of the thousands of claimants who receive assistance from the Crime Victims Compensation Program managed by the Department of Labor & Industries. She will be among the featured speakers at Crime Victims Awareness Day April 20 at the L&I building in Tumwater. Activities run from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The event is part of national Crime Victims Awareness Week that begins April 20. The intent is to draw attention to the plight of crime victims and provide information about available assistance.

The Crime Victims Compensation Program at L&I annually receives between 6,000 to 6,500 claims. About 70 percent are accepted. Benefits include payments for time lost from work, medical care, pensions and mental-health counseling, among others. Of the accepted claims, 69 percent are for women and children.

Almost three-quarters of the claims for children are related to sexual assault.

Bell's message is that a victim of crime need not remain so forever.

"I don't want to speak because people have a morbid curiosity about me. I want to speak if there's some way I can help others," Bell said. "Some believe they can't come back from being a victim, but they're wrong. A person can either choose to take on the role of a victim and remain a victim, or a person can move on. There are a lot of resources out there to help victims.

"The biggest thing is that people need know is that help is available."

The tentative list of speakers at Crime Victim Awareness Day includes:

  • Bernardean Broadous, Thurston County prosecuting attorney.
  • Tanya Murdock, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Juvenile Division.
  • Beth Adams, Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims.
  • Gary Moore, director, Department of Labor & Industries.
  • Det. Cliff Ziesemer, Thurston County Sheriff's Office. He will speak about gangs.
  • Sensai Michael Rosen, Chi Do Kai Dojo, self-defense expert.

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