ANDERSON, SC (WSPA) – William Bell has spent more than half his life behind bars after killing Dennis Hepler at West Franklin Elementary School.
But in a post conviction relief hearing last fall, a judge deemed Bell intellectually disabled and by federal ruling, the state cannot enforce the death penalty on someone who is mentally disabled.
He was re-sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday.
The murder happened just a week before school in 1988 when this tragedy rocked the Anderson community. Friends of Hepler said it was his dream to become a principal and he had been working late the night he was murdered.
Three men jumped him, taking his wallet with $67 and shooting him right in front of the school. But Hepler’s legacy lives on with a park in his name and the memories of the passion he had for education.
“I have gone to that school several times for meetings and such and walk up the steps knowing that where I’m standing Dennis was killed. That’s heartbreaking, but knowing at the same time that school is a community center serving that community makes it a little bit easier,” said Jacky Stamps, former coworker of Hepler.