LOS ANGELES—A man pleaded no contest Dec. 12 to voluntary manslaughter for fatally striking a 70-year-old nurse in the head in an unprovoked attack caught on surveillance video at a downtown bus stop last year.
Kerry Bell, who admitted he had a prior strike for assault in Texas, was immediately sentenced to 12 years in state prison. He waived credit for 698 days he had already served behind bars since his arrest shortly after the Jan. 13, 2022, attack on Sandra Shells.
Two other charges—murder and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury—were dismissed as a result of Mr. Bell’s plea.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Kang told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Drew Edwards that the victim’s sister, friends, and co-workers couldn’t be in court for the plea, but said that they missed her deadly.
He told City News Service that it was a “tragic case.”
The nurse—who was waiting to catch a bus to her job at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center when she was struck at about 5:15 a.m. that day at a bus stop at Vignes Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue, near Union Station—fell and struck her head on the concrete.
She died Jan. 16, 2022 at the hospital, where she had worked for 38 years.
Antonio Campos testified at a March 20 hearing that he hadn’t seen Shells bother anyone and that he rushed to her aid and performed CPR after the woman, who had taken the same transportation he had for years, fell to the ground in the well-lit transportation plaza. He said that he saw her “falling, hitting her head” and that she was “on the floor motionless, bleeding from her head.”
Mr. Campos identified the defendant in court during that hearing and said he didn’t hear Mr. Bell or Ms. Shells say anything. He said he saw the assailant wearing what looked like bags on his shoes, and that he heard someone who sounded scared telling the man to stop.
Los Angeles Police Department Officer Joseph Murphy testified at the hearing in March that officers were able to retrieve a still photo that showed the suspect and said Mr. Bell was tracked down to a platform at Union Station, where he was taken into custody at about 6:45 a.m. that day.
Dr. John Gruen, a neurosurgeon at County-USC Medical Center who testified earlier this year that he frequently rode a shuttle bus from Union Station to the hospital with the nurse, said he operated that day on Ms. Shells in an effort to save her life. But he said he didn’t expect her to ever regain consciousness given the severity of her injury, which he said was not visible externally.
She was subsequently declared brain dead and taken off of life support, he testified.
Shortly after the woman’s death, the hospital announced the creation of a memorial fund to benefit Ms. Shells’ family. The Sandra Shells Memorial Fund was also aimed at helping “other families who have been affected by or have fallen victim to violence,” according to the medical center.
Hospital officials noted that Ms. Shells would often arrive early in the morning before her shift so she could sit in the locker room and read her Bible.
“LAC+USC Medical Center family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support received in the wake of Nurse Sandra Shells’ passing,” according to a hospital statement. “We are grateful to those who have paid tribute to Ms. Shells by extending their condolences, sending flower arrangements, and posting heartfelt messages on social media. We appreciate your sentiments and we thank you for sharing in our sadness.”