By Michael Campbell, News Editor
Updated: Jun. 7, 2017 – 11:00 am
SUSSEX – The community of Sussex is in mourning following news of the passing of longtime Sheriff Raymond Bell at the age of 55.
According to authorities, Bell was found unresponsive inside his Kientz Road residence Saturday afternoon after a deputy tried to reach Bell but was unable to do so. Family members of the sheriff made their way to his home, where a relative found him lying on the ground inside.
Emergency crews responded to the scene and later pronounced Bell dead at 4:58 p.m. There was no indication of any type of foul play related to Bell’s death.
Bell was elected as Sussex County Sheriff in 2007 and was re-elected twice by the community as recently as 2015, carrying over 57 percent of the vote. Bell was the county’s 70th sheriff.
The passing of Bell has left members of the Sussex Sheriff’s Office reeling from the loss of their longtime leader.
“I think his passing was a shock to the whole community,” Sussex Sheriff’s Office Captain Ernest Giles said.
“This is a great loss to our community,” he continued. “All through sickness, Sheriff Bell led our department and this is a loss that is being felt throughout the community.”
Giles reflected on Bell’s commitment to Sussex’s children and the county’s elderly population, two groups of people that Bell worked tirelessly to protect and serve.
“He supported the elderly throughout his terms, such as the Sussex County TRIAD,” Giles said. “He would always attend meetings or send someone there to represent him and he supported both Tidewater Academy and Sussex County Public Schools. When the schools would have an event going on, he made sure our staff was there and, if staff couldn’t, he would be there himself.
Other law enforcement agencies from around the Commonwealth offered their condolences to a department and community in mourning.
Among those personally moved by the news of Bell’s death was neighboring Sheriff Carlos Turner in Surry County, who spoke to the great loss felt by the Bell’s passing.
“When I got the news Saturday that he had passed, my heart just dropped,” Turner shared. “Sheriff Bell was a real good man.”
Turner, who is in the midst of his first term as sheriff, remarked that he saw Bell as a mentor, offering him insights and wisdom into the job and what it meant to be a sheriff and an elected official.
“He has always been a beacon to look toward when it comes to those things,” Turner said. “Bell was always so easy to talk to and always had a joke for you and just kept you laughing.”
A public viewing will be held for the late sheriff on Friday, June 9 at R.E. Pearson and Son Funeral Service located at 556 Halifax Street in Emporia, with a visitation scheduled for Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
A homegoing service for Bell will be hosted at Sussex Central High School at 21394 Sussex Drive beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Following the service, Bell will be laid to rest in the Bell family cemetery in Emporia.
For the community learning of the loss of the sheriff, Giles has a simple message.
“Bell would continue to ask the community to come together as one,” he said. “Let’s support one another and make this community grow. That was our focus as a department and his, as well.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Raymond Bell and the men and women of the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office and the County of Sussex during this difficult time.