The Eleven Who Went to Heaven

The Eleven Who Went to Heaven

In the 1970’s communities around Galveston Texas were horrified by the murder of eleven teenage girls in the local area. Massive investigations followed, but the police failed to identify the killer, or killers involved, and the murders quietly slipped into the status of cold cases.

Then, in a sensational development in 1998, authorities received letters from a convicted murderer, Edward Harold Bell, in which he claimed to be the killer. Bell was able to provided considerable detail about the murders, but investigators remained unconvinced his claims were true. Bell was behind bars at the time for the 1978 murder of former marine Larry Dickens.

Murder confessions by people who did not commit the crimes are not uncommon and police do not automatically accept confessions of this type without further investigation.

The murders, and Bells relationship to them have proved to be fascinating.

  • All the victims were teenage girls from around the Texas Counties of Houston, Galveston, Webster and Dickinson
  • Five were killed in 1971 and six more between 1974 and 1977
  • Some of the victims were murdered in pairs
  • Bell was a well-known sex offender in the 1970’s and had lived in the area where the killings took place
  • Bell’s confession was not made public at the time. It was kept secret for 13 years
  • Bell claimed to have been brainwashed by his father into committing sex crimes
  • He referred to the victims as “the eleven that went to heaven”
  • Bell later recanted his confession
  • Bell is regarded as a highly unreliable witness by authorities

In 2011 a journalist Lise Olsen, together with retired police detective Fred Paige re-examined the murders to try and establish links between Bell and the victims he named. Their investigations provided circumstantial links between Bell and least some of those victims.


Image: Texas Police photograph of Edward Bell, taken c 1978.
Source: Texas Department of Corrections.