Women say Bellows-Shaffer admitted guilt
TOWANDA - Two women who knew Emily Ruth Bellows-Shaffer at the Bradford County Correctional Facility said Wednesday that Bellows-Shaffer, who is on trial this week for the 2010 death of Carol Hickok in Canton Township, acknowledged her guilt to them.
Testifying during the trial Wednesday at the Bradford County Courthouse in Towanda, inmate Stephanie Coolbaugh said that Bellows-Shaffer said that she was scared because she was "guilty, guilty, guilty - guilty of being stupid."
Coolbaugh said they were casual friends and they had quite a few conversations about custody issues. She said that Bellows-Shaffer said that parents "could do anything to get custody, including murder."
Bellows-Shaffer, 55, was charged with criminal homicide in the death of Carol Hickok, who was married to Roger Hickok. Roger Hickok and Bellows-Shaffer had an extra-marital affair, which resulted in the birth of their son in 1998. Bellows-Shaffer was in a custody battle with Roger Hickok over the son, who is now 13 years old, but Roger Hickok won sole custody and the son resided with Roger Hickok and Carol Hickok at their home.
According to court papers, Carol Hickok was killed at the Hickok residence around 6 a.m. Sept. 15, 2010 at 197 Mountain View Rd. in Canton Township. Carol Hickok, who was 65 years old, was found face down at the base of an exterior set of stairs. Bellows-Shaffer told police that she wished to see her son on Sept. 15 and drove to the Hickok residence just before daybreak, and entered it.
Continuing her comments, Coolbaugh said that Bellows-Shaffer tried to have friends at the jail and be liked. "Her behavior got weird," she said.
In addition, Coolbaugh testified that it wasn't her intention to benefit from her testimony. She said she spoke up because she felt that she had to say something.
Renee Shattuck of Canton, who said she had been Bellows-Shaffer's cellmate, claimed that Bellows-Shaffer was angry with Roger Hickok and said that Bellows-Shaffer acknowledged that she caused the death of Carol Hickok. She said Bellows-Shaffer expressed regret over the death, and said that Carol Hickok was a "nice lady" who shouldn't have died.
Shattuck also said they talked about child custody issues, saying, "we had talked about getting rid of the other parent" or the person with the physical custody. She clarified that "getting rid of the other parent" meant killing.
Bradford County District Attorney Dan Barrett asked if Bellows-Shaffer talked of doing harm to Roger Hickok, and Shattuck said that she did - "basically, that she would like to hurt him and torture him."
Shattuck said the police came to her about the information, and she didn't approach them.
Another development in the trial Wednesday was the cross-examination of Roger Hickok by Bradford County Public Defender Helen Stolinas.
Stolinas questioned Roger Hickok at length about a variety of topics, including a statement he reportedly made to police at the time of Carol Hickok's death that he was not emotionally or romantically involved with Bellows-Shaffer behind anyone's back.
Stolinas presented information about Hickok's regular communications with Bellows-Shaffer, including his texting with her, which Stolinas described as "frequent," and his occasional sexual involvement with Bellows-Shaffer. Basically, Stolinas asked if this could be construed as emotional and romantic involvement.
"Some might think it," Roger Hickok responded.
Carol Hickok had filed for divorce in 2002 with the divorce becoming final the next year. However, in 2004, she and Roger Hickok got a license to remarry in February and married in April.
Upon questioning from Stolinas, Roger Hickok answered that he promised to be faithful to Carol Hickok after they were remarried, but he said the fidelity wasn't permanent, lasting from "months to a year."
Roger Hickok confirmed for Stolinas that Carol Hickok's filing for divorce was his idea, and that his intent was to marry Bellows-Shaffer. However, he noted that he was upset about Bellows-Shaffer getting involved with a man in Texas.
Roger Hickok confirmed that police seized his computer and reviewed his browsing and emails.
"You had a profile on more than one dating site?" Stolinas asked.
She asked him if he had a profile on sugardaddy.com and match.com. Roger Hickok said he didn't recall. He did remember a profile he had on another dating website, but said that he never used it. He denied regularly looking at pornography online.
Roger Hickok and the son he had with Bellows-Shaffer made plans to go to Florida in December following the death of Carol Hickok. Roger Hickok had a home and had wintered with Carol Hickok there in the past. The son wanted his mother, Bellows-Shaffer, to go with them, and she did, home-schooling him for the winter. Bradford County District Attorney Dan Barrett said this week that Roger Hickok provided her an allowance of $250 a week for the home schooling and routine duties around the house.
Stolinas asked Roger Hickok if sex was part of the deal, and he said no.
Hickok appeared to become frustrated with Stolinas' questioning at one point as Stolinas asked him about his contact with Bellows-Shaffer prior to Carol Hickok's death. She asked if this included sex.
"Everything is not about sex," Roger Hickok told Stolinas, saying maybe that was the case with her, but it wasn't with him. Stolinas ceased her questioning of him shortly thereafter.
However, he did say during another part of his testimony that he and Bellows-Shaffer had resumed their sexual relationship, but not a "big, torrid affair." Stolinas brought up text messages Roger Hickok had sent to Bellows-Shaffer about feeling lonely and alone.
Also during the cross-examination, Roger Hickok's 911 call about Carol Hickok's death was played.
Also testifying Wednesday was Dr. Samuel Land, who said that he believed the cause of death for Carol Hickok was strangulation. At first it was undetermined, but further information from the investigation allowed him to make the determination about it being strangulation. He testified to Carol Hickok's other injuries as well, including a vertical laceration and a somewhat diagonal laceration on her head.
The trial continued into Wednesday evening as the video of Bellows-Shaffer's interview with the state police was played.
She expressed animosity toward Roger Hickok in the interviews and was upset about not seeing her son.
However, Sharon Blackwell, assistant headmaster at New Covenant Academy, where Hickok's and Bellows-Shaffer's son went to school, said that Bellows-Shaffer could have supervised visits with the son at the school for lunch. Still, she said that Bellows-Shaffer only showed up twice during 13 years.
In the interview, police could be heard trying numerous times to get Bellows-Shaffer to confess to the crime at the Hickok residence, but she kept saying over and over again, "I wasn't there."
State police trooper David Pelachick said Bellows-Shaffer kept saying she wasn't there "that night," but eventually she said she was there that morning.
He said the reason she said she went there was "to see (her son) and watch him sleep." He was at the residence in his bedroom.
According to the affidavit, the homicide occurred the following way:
While struggling, Bellows-Shaffer pushed Carol Hickok, who then fell headfirst into the dresser and struck the top of her head. The struggle continued onto the bed and eventually they rolled off the bed and back onto the floor. During the struggle, Carol Hickok was bleeding from her head wound, staining the comforter on top of the bed. The affidavit notes that the struggle eventually ended, and Bellows-Shaffer said Carol Hickok was on the floor and she was "quite certain" that Carol Hickok was dead at that time. Bellows-Shaffer then dragged the lifeless body outside the residence through an exterior door leading from the bedroom to a large deck and down exterior stairs. According to the affidavit, Bellows-Shaffer indicated that Carol Hickok's body tumbled down the last few stairs onto the ground, where the body was discovered. The affidavit notes that Bellows-Shaffer said she intended to stage the scene in an effort to make Carol Hickok's death appear accidental. Once she moved the body outside, Bellows-Shaffer said she entered the residence again, washed the blood from her hands in the master bedroom, stripped all the bedding from the bed, and put the blood-stained comforter in the washing machine and then left the residence the same way she entered and returned to her vehicle. According to the affidavit, Bellows-Shaffer then returned to her residence, which police said was in Williamsport, where she said she immediately showered and washed the clothing she had worn when the incident occurred.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.