The Brutal Murder of Janice Bell

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Did Pasquale DeTommaso get away with murder, or at least murder for hire? 

Perhaps karma saw to it a better-late-than-never punishment. DeTommaso, 66, died on December 1, 2021 – six days before the 26th anniversary of the murder of his ex-wife, Janice Bell, 33. 

On December 7, 1995, Janice was found dead on the kitchen floor of her Voorhees Township, New Jersey home. She had been stabbed six times in the back, and her throat viciously slashed. The crime suggested the killer approached her from behind. 

The gruesome killing was meant to look like a robbery gone wrong. However, there were no signs of forced entry, and the back door was unlocked. Furthermore, the killer only stole personal items, not valuables appealing to burglars, such as cash or electronics.

The perpetrator stole her diamond engagement ring that her fiance gave her and two bracelets she wore on her wrist. 

Janice had kept audiotapes hidden in a Folger’s coffee can and stored them in the refrigerator. On these tapes were angry, harassing phone messages from DeTommaso. The last one was on December 2, 1995.

George Anastasia of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the killer also “stole home videos and a children’s quilt from the family room and rifled a secret compartment in Janice’s upstairs bedroom where she kept some coins and letters.”

Police found no murder weapon at the crime scene, so the killer likely fled with it.

Janice Bell: newspaper photo of investigators outside the Bell home shortly after Janice's murder.

DeTommaso, born in 1955, came to the U.S. from Italy as a teenager. In college, he met Janice’s brother, Michael Bell, Jr., and the two became friends. DeTommaso ran pizzerias in Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 

Janice and DeTommaso married in 1988 and had two sons, Vincent and Nicholas (Nico), now in their 30s. But the marriage was rocky. Janice’s knight in shining armor turned into a vicious, possessive man once the ring was on her finger. 

Photo credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Janice’s sister, Joan Dombrowski, told Anastasia in 2003: “They went on a month-long honeymoon to Italy. When she got back, she said to me, ‘I made a mistake.'”

Janice stayed with DeTommaso for six years and then filed for divorce.

During the divorce, Janice described DeTommaso as jealous and a “vindictive and very threatening individual.” She said he had secretly recorded her telephone calls and went stark raving mad when she went out with friends.

Janice filed multiple police complaints against DeTommaso. She wrote in March 1994: “He said that this was just the beginning, and he continued yelling, saying they would find me in the woods. This is not the first time he has threatened me.”

DeTommaso walked up behind Janice in the Camden County Courthouse hallway the day the divorce was finalized. He menacingly said to her, “Watch your back.”

She told police officers that DeTommaso had constantly harassed her and threatened her life. 

After DeTommaso’s last phone message on December 2, 1995, Janice told the police officer who took the final complaint, “If anything happens to me, you’ll know who did it.”

Yet the police failed Janice and did nothing to protect her from her crazy ex-husband.

On January 5, 1993, New Jersey Governor Jim Florio signed legislation making stalking a fourth-degree crime for first offenders. If charged, the offense is punishable by eighteen months in state prison. The law requires the conduct must cause the other person to suffer emotional distress.

Clearly, Janice suffered emotional distress from her ex-husband’s stalking. Yet, the police never arrested him. Perhaps his money and influence kept him from behind bars.

Janice Bell: photograph of her ex-husband Pasquale DeTommaso
Pasquale DeTommaso in 2018/Facebook

DeTommaso always denied killing Janice. Police questioned him on the night of her murder, and he claimed he was at his restaurant in Hatfield. He stopped talking to the police afterward. That’s not suspicious.

DeTommaso was awarded custody of their sons. He accused the Bell family of having a “vendetta” against him, saying they blamed him for Janice’s murder. 

I wonder where he got that idea.

One year after Janice’s killing, IRS investigator, Gerald Loke, identified DeTommaso as a suspect in an affidavit. Loke had built a tax evasion case against DeTommaso and spent months investigating him. Anastasia wrote, “The government alleged DeTommaso had evaded more than $135,000 in taxes.” He was later found guilty and served one year in prison.

Prosecutors claimed insufficient evidence to arrest DeTommaso for his ex-wife’s murder.

It is possible DeTommaso hired someone to kill Janice. He then told that person where Janice kept the personal items and audiotapes.  But how did DeTommaso know about the audiotapes and where Janice hid them?  

A burglar would not look in the refrigerator, open the coffee can, and steal audiotapes, cash yes, but not tapes. The burglar would likely have waited until Janice was asleep or gone when he entered the home. Instead, the killer murdered her first and then stole items, invaluable items, at that. Janice’s murder was overkill and personal. And only one person had reason to kill her, and that was her ex-husband.

But in 2002, a strange turn of events briefly questioned the entire investigation. 

In November 1994, two assailants killed Carol Neulander, 52, with a metal pipe during a staged robbery in Cherry Hill. Police eventually charged her husband, Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, with murder. Shortly before trial, Len Jenoff confessed to his part in the Neulander murder in April 2000. 

Neulander’s first trial resulted in a hung jury. At a retrial in 2002, convicted pedophile David Beardsley testified for the defense. He said Jenoff confessed to him in prison that he also killed Janice Bell. Jenoff vehemently denied any part in the Bell homicide and conversing with Beardsley. The Superior Court judge did not allow discussion of the Bell murder to prevent a “trial within a trial.” Investigators found no evidence tying Jenoff to Janice’s murder.

Beardsley later said that Jenoff had spoken a lot of garbage to him during their brief time in jail together. For example, Jenoff claimed to be a CIA and FBI agent. Beardsley took his claims with a grain of salt, except for the Bell confession. Beardsley claimed he had nothing to gain from testifying and felt the right thing to do was notify Neulander’s attorneys.

Neulander was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to life with parole eligibility in June 2030. Jenoff and the second killer, Paul Daniels, were released in 2014. 

Unfortunately, no one was ever charged with Janice’s killing, and it officially remains unsolved.

After Janice’s murder, DeTommaso and the boys lived with his mother in Maryland, where he ran another pizza restaurant. He later married a woman named Elvira. Giddy up, oom poppa, oom poppa, mow mow. IYKYK.

Janice’s parents and sister are now deceased. Her family never revealed her fiance’s identity, likely to protect him from DeTommaso. 

Photo credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer

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I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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