FEDERAL INMATE PLEADS GUILTY AND RECEIVES LIFE SENTENCE FOR 2000 CARJACKING, KIDNAPPING AND MURDER IN VERMONT
WASHINGTON – A federal inmate formerly residing in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty today to murder, carjacking and kidnapping, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan for the District of Vermont.
Donald Fell, 38, formerly of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to a federal indictment arising from the Nov. 27, 2000 kidnapping, carjacking and murder of 53-year old Teresca King.
Fell pleaded guilty to all four charges pending against him, including carjacking with death resulting, kidnapping with death resulting, brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and transportation of a firearm by a fugitive from justice. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford accepted Fell’s guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Rutland, Vermont. Immediately after the guilty plea, Judge Crawford sentenced Fell to serve life in prison without the possibility of release. Fell also agreed to waive direct appeal.
During the plea, Fell admitted to murdering Rutland man Charles Conway while Fell’s friend and now deceased co-defendant Robert Lee murdered Fell’s mother Debra Fell, 46, in an apartment on Robbins Street in Rutland. The two men then carjacked and kidnapped Teresca King in Rutland and drove into New York State, where they killed Mrs. King. Lee and Fell were natives of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, who came to Vermont in late 2000.
According to the plea agreement, on the evening of Nov. 26, 2000, defendant Donald R. Fell, Robert Lee, Debra Fell, and Charles Conway were socializing in the apartment of Debra Fell on Robbins Street in Rutland. In the early morning hours of Nov. 27, 2000, Fell attacked Charles Conway with a knife and killed him. Robert Lee attacked Debra Fell with another knife, killing her.
After killing Conway and Debra Fell, Fell and Lee walked together to the Price Chopper grocery store in Rutland, carrying an unloaded Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, looking for a car in which to leave Vermont. At approximately 3:30 a.m., Fell and Robert Lee confronted Teresca King when she arrived in her Vermont plated Plymouth Neon automobile at the Price Chopper to work her early morning shift. At shotgun point, Fell and Lee stole King’s car keys and forced her into the backseat of her car. The two men then took turns driving the car west out of Vermont into New York State, and then south for several hours. Shortly after dawn on Nov. 27, 2000, the men parked King’s car at the side of the road in rural Dover Plains, New York, and took King into the woods. In a spot not visible from the road, Fell and Lee battered King to death, kicking her in the head and striking her face with a rock as she lay on her back. Leaving King’s body in the woods, Fell and Lee continued driving south in her car.
The two men stopped in their hometown of Wilkes-Barre for a night. In Wilkes-Barre, they stole a pair of Pennsylvania license plates from another Plymouth Neon and put them on King’s car, and discarded King’s Vermont plates. Continuing southwest, the two men paused to refuel in Clarksville, Arkansas, where a local law enforcement officer stopped the Plymouth Neon due to the stolen plates. Fell and Lee were arrested, and the Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun was seized.
The United States extends its sympathy and gratitude to Mrs. King’s family, who closely followed the case since 2000, attending all court hearings and displaying remarkable patience with the extraordinary delays. The United States also extends its sympathy to the family members of Charles Conway. In his plea today, Fell acknowledged that he murdered Mr. Conway while Fell’s deceased co-defendant, Robert Lee, was murdering Fell’s mother, Debra Fell. By encompassing Fell’s role in these murders in the plea, the loss of the lives of Mr. Conway and Mrs. Fell are recognized.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the Rutland Police Department, the Vermont State Police, the New York State Police and the Clarksville, Arkansas Police Department. The U.S. Marshal’s Service also worked hard on the case over the years.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bill Darrow and Jon Ophardt, along with Trial Attorney Sonia Jimenez of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section of the Department of Justice.
U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan commended U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutors and staff for their commitment and tremendous work on this case for more than 17 years. She noted that Assistant U.S. Attorney Darrow has prosecuted this case with distinction and remarkable dedication over its entire lifespan, and she thanked the Department’s Capital Case Section and its prosecutors for their support and partnership. She acknowledged the tremendous toll that nearly 18 years of litigation has taken on the victims’ families and stated that, in supporting the plea agreement, the United States hoped to bring that protracted ligation to resolution and secure finality for the victims, the public, law enforcement, and all other parties involved.