Double murderer gets his wish

Published: Jan. 14, 2003 at 8:57 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2003 at 10:57 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

January 14, 2003

Daniel Colwell shot and killed two people in the Americus WalMart parking lot six years ago.

He randomly killed Mitchell and Judith Bell so he would be sentenced to die. For years, Daniel Colwell had a death wish, but was afraid to committ suicide. He apparently overcame that fear late Sunday night.

The 41-year old Colwell was found hanging in his cell on death row at the Jackson State Prison. Prison officials say he apparently hanged himself with a sheet.

Colwell had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and manic depressive. He had tried suicide several times and finally, in a desperate attempt to die in the electric chair, he gunned down the Bells, then surrendered to police.

What followed was one of the strangest sentencing trials in South Georgia history.

"My lawyers do not represent me," he said to the court. "It's too bad that me and death are best friends."

Daniel Morris Colwell was not your typical killer. He didn't kill out of anger, for money, or even for some sick thrill. He intentionally murdered with one goal in mind; to die at the hands of the state. "I, Daniel Colwell, deserve the death penalty."

Moments after shooting Mitchell and Judith Bell in July 1996, Colwell drove to the police station.  Commander Nelson Brown says "He walked inside, summoned dispatch, told the dispatcher, 'I'm the person you're looking for killing two people at Wal-Mart.'"

Colwell's attorney wanted him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but he refused, and plead guilty. Then, at his sentencing trial last year, he even threatened the jurors. "For those who might want me to see me suffer by making me suffer for the rest of my life in prison, how do you know, that I will not break out of prison and then torture your loved ones?"

Daniel Colwell was one of 14 children, from a hard working, God-fearing, religious family, well known and well respected throughout Americus.

And Daniel was the family star. He won a college football scholarship and at 6-1, 225 pounds, he was even a pro prospect. To his younger brother Steven, Daniel was a hero.

"He loved rising to the occasion and making the big play. He was an exciting type football player," said brother Steven.

But his promising football career came to an abrupt end in 1983 when he walked off the field before his college team's final game. His family says it was the first sign of his mental illness.

It's the mental illness his lawyers point to as the reason for his bizarre trial where Colwell sang: "Babe I'm leaving, I must be on my way. The time is drawing near. Babe I love you."

NBC News contributed to this report.
posted at 4:00PM by