Left and Right: Jeanna circa, 1993
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: June 28, 1993
Missing From: Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: December 12, 1981
Age: 11 years old
Height and Weight: 4’3″ and 55 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Jeanna’s ears are pierced and she might use the nickname “Cobbie”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A blue t-shirt with gold and white mime masks imprinted across the front, turquoise colored cut-off shorts, and a pair of black Rollerblades with neon green colored wheels
NCMEC Number: 781241
Details of Disappearance
Jeanna was last seen in Fargo, North Dakota on June 28th 1993. That day, Jeanna went to Fargo’s Island Park Pool with some friends until the pool closed and her father, John North, came to pick them up. He drove everyone home afterwards. After they got home, it was still light outside and Jeanna begged John to extend her curfew so she could go rollerblading with her two friends. John consented but told Jeanna to be home by 10:30 pm. She left the house and went to her friends houses and the three girls left with each other.
Soon after skating off, the girls both stopped across the street to visit a neighbor who was installing lights on his pickup truck at the time. At approximately 10:30 pm, a police officer said he saw the two girls stop at a local convenience store and shortly afterwards, the girls began skating back towards their respective homes. The girls then stopped at the friends residence. Jeanna’s friend asked her if she wanted her mother to escort her home but Jeanna said “No, it’s just down the street. I’ll be fine.”
Jeanna’s residence was located less than a block away. Her friend last saw her skating towards the corner of south 15th Street and south 4th Avenue. Jeanna apparently never made it back home and she was never seen or heard from again. John had fallen asleep on the couch while watching a television documentary so he didn’t notice that his youngest daughter hadn’t come home yet. When he woke up the next morning, he checked his children’s bedrooms. Jeanna’s older sisters, Jennifer and Jessica, were in their rooms but she wasn’t in hers.
John initially assumed that Jeanna had spent the night with one of her friends she went out with and told Jeanna’s mother, Sue Hurst, that she wasn’t home yet. Both of her parents called her friends and checked around the neighborhood for her but she wasn’t anywhere. They thought she may have been staying with other relatives but they reported her missing that afternoon when they couldn’t find her anywhere.
Many people in the community participated in the search for Jeanna. Her photo appeared on storefronts and bulletin boards all over the country. On July 9th 1993, Jeanna’s disappearance was profiled on America’s Most Wanted, a Fox networks television program. The case was previously profiled on the show just a week before and it brought additional attention to the case. The detective investigating Jeanna’s disappearance traveled to Washington D.C. when the program aired so he could help answer calls about the case.
Before the July 9th profiling of the case, a woman contacted authorities anonymously and told them to search abandoned trailers for Jeanna. Investigators took the tip more seriously than others based off the way the woman spoke and how she sounded. Nothing was found, investigators likely took the tip seriously than others because they simply didn’t have anymore leads or tips to go on. They said “there was just something different about it.” Investigators also searched the Devils Lake town area after receiving a tip from a psychic for over six hours but found nothing.
The Polly Klaas Foundation also partook in efforts to help locate Jeanna. The foundations board of directors set aside $5,000 to mail fliers with Jeanna’s photograph and description and also stated additional search assistance and resources would come after that as well. The foundation said they found Jeanna’s case to be quite interesting because of the diminishing of the public financial and volunteer support. Jeanna’s mother and other relatives were left to stuff envelopes on their own.
Authorities also checked out hundreds leads in the case. Although they found several individuals to be suspicious in the case, they never had a strong suspect in the case immediately following Jeanna’s disappearance. However, they suspected she was abducted by a non family member and that she may have been murdered as well. The case would remain unsolved for nearly three years afterwards.
Investigators named Kyle Kenneth Bell as a primary suspect in Jeanna’s presumed abduction just two weeks after her 1993 disappearance. He lived across the street from Jeanna at the time and he was the neighbor that she and her friends stopped to see while he was installing the lights on his pickup truck. Bell and John had met once before about a month prior to Jeanna’s abduction. Bell walked across the street to the North residence while the family was having a Memorial Day barbecue and asked to borrow a wrench.
Bell was questioned several times following Jeanna’s disappearance but each time, he denied having anything to do with her presumed abduction. It didn’t take long for him to come under suspicion for her disappearance, however. He was previously convicted of child molestation against a minor in 1990 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He was originally sentenced to a two year prison-term but he only served 10 weeks of it and was released shortly thereafter. Bell worked stints as a mechanic and a carpenter and was described as someone who need to be in control.
He also once bragged that he pocketed $80,000 stemming from a lawsuit settlement over the accidental deaths of his father and grandmother in an accident. Bell originally denied knowing Jeanna but admitted that he had seen her around the neighborhood a few times before she went missing. Investigators had no evidence to connect Bell to the crime initially. But that would eventually change when witnesses came forward and connected him to Jeanna’s disappearance.
A woman named Mary Hoglund came forward and told police about a strange event that occurred shortly after Jeanna’s disappearance. She was reportedly driving on a country road when she noticed a black pickup truck parked in the middle of the bridge over the Sheyenne River. She saw a man standing next to the truck and he was looking into the River.
Approximately 20 minutes later, the same man appeared at her nearby house and he stopped at her father-in-laws adjacent property. The man claimed he had run out of gas so she gave him a five gallon can. Mary said that as the man filled his tank, she noticed that gas was spilling out on the ground. This meant that the tank was already near full. His truck was fine and it started right away.
Before the man drove off, he gave his phone number and name to her. The man was Kyle Bell. Soon after they received the information about this strange event, authorities quietly searched the Sheyenne River for any traces of Jeanna. The police found nothing at the time to suggest that she was in the water at that time.
Authorities felt they were getting closer with connecting Bell to Jeanna’s abduction but the only issue was that there was physical evidence to suggest he took her. Authorities requested to search Bell’s vehicle for any fiber traces or hairs that might’ve come from Jeanna. He gave consent for the search and he initially claimed that the girl had never been in his vehicle prior to her disappearance.
As the police were preparing to vacuum the cab of his vehicle, he said that they would probably find hair strands from Jeanna in there because he said he once gave her and a friend a ride from the Dairy Queen. When asked why he didn’t say this earlier on, Bell replied that he thought it wasn’t important to the investigation at the time. Hairs that were found in the vehicle were positively linked to Jeanna by means of DNA testing.
Investigators continued to try and get Bell to admit to what he had done to Jeanna, even throwing in that her death might’ve been accident. Despite this, Bell said nothing regarding his involvement in her disappearance but he did say “You had the bodies in those cases, isn’t that right?” They were never able to get anything out of him and he continued to deny being involved in her presumed abduction.
In April of 1994, Kyle was arrested and charged with four counts of child molestation of two girls, aged 8 and 3. He molested them and took lewd photos of them. He was additionally charged with criminal trespass as well. He Bell posted a $20,000 cash bail and left for Colorado in May of 1994. He failed to make a court appearance which resulted in him becoming a wanted man. While the publicity surrounding the bail occurred, Jeanna’s family discovered that the man they lived across the street from was a child predator.
Four months after Kyle posted bail, in August of 1994, a police officer in a suburb of Denver, noticed a pickup truck with North Dakota license plates stopped at a gas station. Upon running a routine license plate check, he found that the truck belonged to a wanted fugitive. It was Kyle Bell who had run out of gas at the time. He was arrested but refused to waive extradition back to North Dakota.
A detective from the Cass County Sheriffs Department, Steve Gabrielson, drove Kyle from Denver, Colorado back to Fargo. During the car ride, Bell boasted of his new life and how he had his own construction crew as well as meeting a new woman. Gabrielson said the conversation became sickening after several hours of driving. However, when the conversation shifted onto Jeanna’s disappearance, Bell became less talkative. He would say things such as “You can’t prove it and you have no proof” or he would deny it completely.
On January 24th 1995, Kyle was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the molestation charges brought against him. His sentence was to be followed with 10 years of supervised probation. Moments after the the prosecutions opening remarks, Sue North lost it and called Bell a “Bastard.” She attempted to climb the 3-foot barrier which separated him from the gallery. She was detained by court deputies before she could get to him.
Bell was said to be stone-faced during the sentencing and Sue North’s outburst in court. After the session ended, Bell was taken by investigators to a jailhouse interview room instead of being sent back to his jail cell. In exchange for a voluntary statement regarding Jeanna’s abduction, investigators told Bell they would recommend an unspecified sentence to run concurrently with his molestation sentence.
Investigators did remind him that there is no statue of limitations on murder charges so he could be charged someday if Jeanna’s disappearance is deemed a probable homicide. Bell accepted to admit to his role in Jeanna’s case when he was offered the possibility to effectively serve the same sentence for two criminal cases. On that same day in 1995, Bell confessed that he abducted and murdered Jeanna on the same day of her disappearance.
Bell stated that Jeanna performed a sexual act on him in his garage just minutes after her friend last saw her rollerblading back toward her home. He claimed she initiated this encounter but investigators are unsure if this part is true or not. Bell said Jeanna threatened to tell her parents about the whole thing so he slapped her with the back of his hand and she fell while still wearing her rollerblades. Bell said she struck her head on the wall and died.
Bell told investigators that after Jeanna died, he placed her limp body in his pickup truck and drove to the bridge overlooking the Sheyenne River. He found a concrete block in his truck as well as some rope. He stated that he folded Jeanna “like a jackknife” and tied her body to the block before throwing her body, clothing and rollerblades intact, into the River. Bell took a polygraph regarding his confession and was adamant that her death was accidental.
Investigators immediately began to search for Jeanna’s body after Kyle’s admission to killing her came to light. They began searching the Sheyenne River on January 30th 1995. Divers searched the river at least 14 times following the confession but they were never able to locate Jeanna’s remains. They even tried to locate possible areas to search for her remains by dropping a pig that was her approximate weight into the water and several pairs of rollerblades as well.
Despite the efforts of investigators and others involved in the search, she would never be found. It should also be noted that divers also found several sinkholes, some of which were up to 10 feet deep. On September 3rd 1996, investigators found a piece of rope tied to a concrete block in the Sheyenne River. The materials were sent to the FBI who determined that the discovered evidence matched materials found at Bell’s residence.
In September of 1998, Bell was charged with sexually assaulting and murdering Jeanna on the day of her disappearance. Although his confession to killing Jeanna came nearly four years earlier, there were various obstacles that came with charging him with the crime. For one, Jeanna’s body was never recovered and in May of 1995, Bell claimed that his confession was coerced and requested to recant the whole admission.
Bell was ordered to stand trial for his role in Jeanna’s presumed death and the trial began on August 18th 1999. Prosecutors stated that although the child’s body was not found, Bell’s statements he gave to police would ultimately prove he killed her without any reasonable doubt. Bell pleaded innocent to the killing and his attorney stated that although evidence indicated Bell was the responsible party for Jeanna’s murder, there was no actual proof that Jeanna was dead and that the state wouldn’t be able to prove it.
Due to pre-publicity, Bell’s trial was moved to Mandan which was over 200 miles away from the area of Fargo. East Central District Judge Frank Racek ruled prior to jury selection that the entire conversation between Bell and authorities in 1995 could be submitted as evidence. That conversation being the confession that he made to accidentally killing Jeanna on the day she disappeared when she threatened to expose his molestation.
However, his confession was ultimately thrown out by the judge after it was found that the admission was obtained illegally. The judge did allow the subsequent statements from Bell that he voluntarily made regarding Jeanna’s death being an accident. One of Jeanna’s friends also testified how they visited Bell often during the early summer of 1993. She stated that the two of them visited Bell more than a dozen times over two or three days.
The friend stated that Jeanna had a nickname for Bell and it was “C-man.” She never explained what this moniker referred to. Investigators suspect that Bell had been sexually grooming Jeanna for a very long time before her abduction and murder. In the end, it was Bell’s own words that got him for the crime.
On August 20th 1999, after approximately four hours of deliberation, Bell was convicted of Class AA murder in connection to Jeanna’s murder. Bell’s incriminating statements in regards to the case and a web of suspicious circumstantial evidence was enough to convict him of the crime. The jury who convicted him already agreed from the star that Bell was guilty of killing Jeanna, but their decision to convict him of Class AA murder came after they heard what he had done to Jeanna after killing her.
On September 24th 1999, Bell received a life sentence for killing Jeanna. Her relatives were all relieved that the man responsible for taking her life was finally getting punished for his heinous doing. Bell’s attorney attempted to have the conviction and sentence appealed but this ended up not occurring and Bell was scheduled to serve his sentences consecutively. His sentence for Jeanna’s murder would begin once his sentence for the molestations ended in 2019.
Bell was ordered to serve his prison time in an out-of-state maximum security prison facility located in Oregon. However, during a fuel stop in Santa Rosa, New Mexico Bell escaped from the transport bus at a truck stop and went on the run. Bell was listed as a wanted fugitive and a nationwide manhunt for him occurred. The case was featured on America’s Most Wanted and hundreds of leads regarding his location came in.
In January of 2000, a man in Dallas, Texas contacted the show after he saw a man he believed to be Bell. Although a tip like this was very common, four FBI agents and a few Dallas police officers went to the apartment located in north east Dallas at approximately 10:30 pm but the man said to be Bell wasn’t there at the time. They staked out his apartment until Bell arrived there from work at approximately 12:30 pm.
They knocked on the door and a woman answered. When Bell was summoned, he identified himself as Chris Larson which was the name he used when he rented the apartment. The man was indeed Bell but he had been using an alias ever since his escape and he altered his appearance so he wouldn’t be recognized as a wanted fugitive. He shaved his facial hair and cropped his hair as well. His distinctive tattoos were still present which includes: a black panther, Pegasus, a rose, and the grim reaper on his chest and arms.
The fingerprints matched as well which proved he was indeed Kyle Bell. He was somewhat belligerent but he didn’t resist arrest and was somewhat compliant. He allegedly had a fraudulent Texas drivers license under his alias name but he did sign his real name when he was booked into jail after his capture. Bell had been living with this woman and her five young children since November 20th when they leased the apartment together.
The woman was interviewed and she stated that she met Bell at a homeless shelter in Dallas. Bell later told authorities that he arrived in the area in October at some point after his escape and apparently worked odd jobs in order to gain cash. During his time as a wanted fugitive, Bell worked as a plumber and also worked at a concessionaire at a Dallas area sports arena. Bell was sent to a federal penitentiary in Florence following his October 1999 escape and his subsequent capture.
In 2008, Bell attempted to request release from prison on the grounds that his rights were being violated. He argued in handwritten court documents that as a state prisoner, he is being illegally confined in a federal facility where he cannot visit family or friends. He also claimed he was unable to work and earn money as other state prisoners were able to do.
In response to this, a North Dakota Attorney General cited Bell’s escape from the prison transport bus in 1999. He also noted how Bell asked the North Dakota Penitentiary warden for protection from other inmates while he was housed there during the mid-1990s for the child molestation charges. It has been stated that Bell was not transferred to Colorado for any reasons related to retaliation but that the transport was rational and proper.
Bell attempted to appeal his case when he was convicted in 1999. However, the North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in March of 2000 because Bell was a wanted fugitive when the justices were supposed to hear his case. Bell claims the dismissal violated his rights but the fugitive dismissal rule is a well established and recognized rule which dates back to 1897. Bell attempted to request legal help but he was denied it since he wasn’t entitled to it. He has remained in prison since.
At the time of her disappearance, Jeanna loved skating, gymnastics, and dancing. According to her mother, she always insisted on being the leader when playing with other children on the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what they were doing, she had to be the leader. Her family suffered tremendously following the loss of Jeanna. Her mother passed away in 2009 at the age of 58. Her father and older sisters are alive and hope to locate her remains and give her a proper burial.
Jeanna remains listed as a missing child since her body hasn’t been recovered. Authorities have stated it’s unlikely this will ever happen since the Sheyenne River flooded in the West Fargo area several times after 1993. Jeanna’s murder helped to strengthen laws for sexual offenders.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Fargo Police Department 701-241-1437