Bell Gets Maximum Sentence in Baseball Bat Murder

- Jurors give the defendant the maximum punishment in what officials describe as one of the most brutal, vicious murders Vernon has ever seen.

Earlier today, an eight-woman, four-man 46th District Court jury found Ezekiel Bell guilty of the December 2012 murder of Michael Ridge.

He was sentenced to life in prison for that crime.

Prosecutors say Bell beat Ridge's face with an aluminum baseball bat after a night of smoking marijuana and popping pills with Ridge and others.

In closing arguments, District Attorney Staley Heatly told jurors Bell is a known drug dealer who makes money by breaking society's laws.

He asked the jury to give Bell the maximum sentence.

Defense attorney Michael Valverde told jurors Bell took responsibility for what he did by telling police what happened and is a changed man who can be a good father to his two-year-old son.

He said Bell was temporarily insane at the time of the incident because he was intoxicated and high on drugs.

He asked them for the minimum sentence of five years, or no more than 20.

Heatly says the murder scene was one of the most horrific he's ever seen.

He says Ridge was hit in the face with the bat at least 100 times.

"The medical examiner described the brain of the victim as pulpified brain," Heatly said. "He had been beaten so severely on his head that what brain matter was left inside of his skull cavity was pulpified. A big portion of his brain matter was on the ground of the crime scene; on the floor of the house."

Bell faces five to 99 years in prison for the murder conviction.

He has prior convictions of possession of marijuana and possession of pills.

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