PLYMOUTH – A community has come together to pray for a family who suffered an unimaginable tragedy over the weekend.
Flowers and mementos were left at the end of the walkway in front of the two-family home at 104 N. Main St., where Owen and Naomi Bell lived with their children Madeline, Nathan and Adam. A hand-drawn sign on the steps read “We love you Maddie” with a single pink rose beside it.
Fifteen-year-old Madeline “Maddie” Bell died from gunshot wounds inflicted at the home Friday night. Her 7-year-old brother Nathan was also shot and remains in critical condition at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Their brother Adam, a student at Eli J. Terry Middle School, was not at the home at the time of the shooting.
Naomi Bell, 43, was arrested by police on charges of murder and criminal attempt to commit murder. She is being held on a $2.5 million bond.
Interfaith group Prayers for Plymouth held a vigil for the family Sunday evening, live-streaming it on the ‘Prayers for Plymouth’ Facebook page.
Wearing masks, Rev. Zachary Mabe from Terryville Congregational Church and Matthew Miskin, director of music, played the guitar, and sang songs and hymns, including “On Eagles’ Wings” and “Do Not Be Afraid.” They were joined by Rev. Denise Clapsaddle, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Plymouth.
“God we ask you, wrap your loving warm arms around the Bell family, around our first responders, around our schools and around our whole community,” Mabe said in prayer. “We don’t have the answers, but we trust in God.”
Rev. Clapsaddle also offered her prayers, acknowledging it is a difficult time for the entire community.
“When someone who seemed loving and good commits a murder,” she said, “when children die or are wounded… it is natural for us to turn to God and say, why?”
“It’s hard to have compassion for the perpetrators of violence,” the pastor added, urging people to focus their compassion and outreach on the tragedy’s survivors, as well as others they know who may be hurting.
“There’s a lot of stress going on in the pandemic,” Clapsaddle pointed out. “We don’t know all of the circumstances in this situation but we do know that sometimes people reach a breaking point. Sometimes when someone makes a cry for help they’re not very pleasant, but if you hear it and are able to answer it without putting yourself in danger you may be able to save a life. We don’t understand; but we love and we believe.”
Faith leaders went on to read several among hundreds of comments flooding in through social media during the vigil. Candles were lit and people watching from home were invited to join in lighting candles as well.
Mabe said he knows Plymouth as “a loving, caring community” and encouraged community members to reach out to one another in their grief.
“Even when you extinguish the candle you’re holding, the light of Christ never dies,” he said. “The darkness cannot overcome it.”
Over 500 comments were left on the video feed by Plymouth residents, friends of the family and even former residents who heard about the tragedy from afar.
“Maddie we will hold you in our hearts,” posted Amber Cowett Perez. “Sending strength and healing to Adam, Nathan and Owen.”
From Adam Romano came, “Thank you for the service, love to you all.”
Taylor Wells, a man who lives next door to the Bell family, told the Press earlier on Sunday he shared a friendly but distanced relationship with his neighbors.
“They were just really nice people,” Wells said. “Naomi walks her dog around and says hi to just about everybody.”
The two made “small talk” he added, but didn’t have many interactions.
“They would apologize for their leaves falling into my yard and I would kick their soccer ball back into their yard,” Wells explained. “That was really it.”
An online “Meal Train” created for the family has already raised over $3,000 and dozens of people have signed up to provide meals to the family through December. The web address is https://mealtrain.com/1wz346.
An in-person memorial has also been established on the Plymouth Green and the town’s school district is providing assistance to students and staff.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.