By the time Tulsa police found Wayne Bell’s body back in the summer of 2013, the former juvenile detention center counselor had been dead for hours.
His body was found the morning of June 28, 2013, by the curbside trash can outside his north Tulsa home in the 4500 block of East Young Court. It had likely been there more than seven hours.
As the 48-year-old’s homicide remained unsolved, theories ran rampant. Bell’s home had been shot up twice before, and police alleged some of his sons had gang ties. Had it been a gang hit gone wrong?
A KJRH report months after the shooting alleged Bell, who was married, had a number of girlfriends. Did he die as a result of an explosive love triangle?
After more than three years of waiting, police believe they have their answer due to a twist of fate.
Brennon Lovett, a 32-year-old last convicted in 2007 of distributing marijuana, confessed to the shooting after being arrested last month. Lovett, also identified in some records as Brennan Lovett, allegedly attempted to shoot a man in the back July 29 near Third Street and Lewis Avenue when he was spotted by an off-duty Kiefer police officer working as a security guard.
The officer, Martin Ramos, told NewsOn6 Lovett asked the victim for help in an alley, then tried to shoot him. Ramos yelled at Lovett, who fired a shot that missed its target.
Lovett fled and was arrested later that day. When officers got him back to the police station for questions, they said he confessed to not just the botched shooting earlier that day but to five others, including Bell’s death.
Lovett has not been charged with Bell’s homicide or any of the other shootings he allegedly confessed to. He’s being held in jail on five complaints of shooting with intent to kill and one murder complaint, records show.
In a city with an aggressive homicide unit that routinely turns over shootings in less than a day, how did Lovett elude identification and arrest for more than three years?
He didn’t brag about the shootings to friends or females,TPD Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker said. That kind of attention-seeking behavior often leads police to their suspect. Instead, Lovett laid low, working a day job at Mr. Klean Car Wash, 6510 E 71st St., appearing to be a regular guy trying to get by.
Tulsa police Gang Unit Sgt. Sean Larkin said Lovett had been certified as a “Deuce 7” gang member, which is a “smaller subset” of the Hoover Crips.
“According to my records, the Gang Unit hasn’t had any contact with him since 2009,” Larkin said.
So while investigators were combing through leads and frustrating themselves with dead ends for months on end, it appears Lovett kept out of legal trouble and primarily chose his victims at random.
“He said in one shooting that the guy looked at him odd, and that’s what got him shot,” Walker said. “He alluded to an arrest in 2000 as a juvenile where he got into a fight and stabbed someone” as a reason for his frustration.
“He seemed to think that was a big reason why he didn’t make it in basketball. He’s a frustrated guy.”
Jail information lists Lovett as being 5-feet, 8-inches tall and 145 pounds.
Walker said Lovett confessed to five shootings, as well as the attempted shooting last month. Bell was the only fatality of the six shootings, though Lovett allegedly told investigators he’d attempted to kill each of the victims.
Lovett, Walker said, was essentially a serial killer who’d only been “successful” once.
“He’s just one of those mindsets, it’s an interesting study in killing,” Walker said. “Killers are a rare breed. It would be an interesting study, if we had the time to really look at it and dedicate the bodies to get inside his head for the next time something like this happens.”
While the majority of the shootings were random, Walker said, it looks like Bell’s death was a case of mistaken identity.
Lovett said he thought Bell “was a member of a rival gang,” Walker said. Lovett also allegedly confessed to shooting up Bell’s house twice before finally working up the courage to kill him.
“Bell being in a gang had never come up; that’s nothing we had heard,” Walker said.
Police believed Bell’s children “were on the edge” of gang membership, he said.
“We were really suspecting them of maybe bringing (the shooting) on, but it turns out we were wrong. That’s why this has been a good learning experience for us.”
Lovett allegedly confessed to four other shootings:
- On June 20, 2015, Lovett allegedly shot a man in a car outside of Woodland Hills Mall. Walker said investigators initially believed the victim had been a target, and spent time searching for a reason for the shooting. “He just picked him out of the parking lot,” Walker said. “He wasn’t targeting him.”
- On June 22, 2015, Lovett allegedly shot a man at an apartment complex in the 1600 block of East Virgin Street. Lovett allegedly told police the victim “looked at him funny.”
- On Sept. 24, 2015, Lovett allegedly shot a man at a house in the 300 block of South Xanthus Street. “We were way off on that one,” Walker said. “The house used to be owned by someone in the drug trade so we were looking at it like it was maybe drug related and the victim was targeted.”
- On Nov. 11, 2015, Lovett allegedly shot a man outside Wilson’s BBQ, 1522 E. Apache St.
“It’s a rare deal, to have someone capable of something like this,” Walker said. “Thank God it’s rare.”
Walker said the 10-person homicide unit had a meeting Wednesday where they talked about taking their old, frustrating unsolved cases and looking at them through the “Lovett lens.” Old shooting cases where investigators have run out of leads will now be given another look.
Erase existing theories, Walker said, and treat the cases as a thought experiment.
“What if the shooter was totally random,” Walker said. “How would we find him?”
Walker referenced the Christen Welch case as one that could use a fresh look.
Welch, whose body was found in her burned out house in 2014. A common theory police had around the time of her death was that a group of juveniles breaking into her house stumbled upon her, killed her, then set fire to the home to cover their tracks. But almost two years later investigators are at a dead end.
“That’s one that maybe we just look at differently and see what we come up with,” Walker said.