katelyn Ervin
Katelyn Ervin

Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office

Mother Debbie Ervin now breathes better because the stranger who killed her daughter was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday.

Her daughter Katelyn Ervin, 26, was killed by Ellis Bell Feb. 27, 2018, said Detective Sgt. Steve Craig of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.

Ellis Bell
Ellis Bell

Bell, 36, of Nashville pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of Ervin and pleaded no contest to a related rape charge during a hearing Thursday in Circuit Court.

During a victim’s impact statement, Debbie Ervin told Bell “how our family has been completely shattered because of his actions.”

Katelyn Ervin was the fifth child of six children from the blended family between her mother and father, Steve Ervin, a county commissioner and Probation and Recovery Services Director for Rutherford County.

“She was the light of our family,” Debbie Ervin said. “Katelyn made sure every one of them know how special they are. Katelyn wanted to make sure everyone was connected.”

Katelyn started a sibling Snap Chat that they still use.

In an interview Friday, Debbie Ervin said Bell didn’t know her daughter.

“I wanted him to understand who Katelyn is,” the mother said.

The family suffered another death the mother believes was related to Katelyn’s murder.

“We lost Steve last year to his broken heart,” Ervin said of her husband.

She described her family as very tight-knit.

“He (Bell) did not destroy this family by the grace of God,” Ervin said. “The most impossible pain that God gives us gives the most incredible strength and that’s the hope we have in the world.”

During the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Trevor Lynch reviewed the case with Circuit Court Judge Brody Kane of Lebanon, who was appointed to hear the case since the Rutherford County judges knew Steve Ervin. The circumstances of her daughter’s case were difficult for the mother to hear.

At the time of Bell’s arrest, Craig said his investigation showed Bell broke into the family home and abducted her.

“Ellis Bell drove the victim to a remote location where he shot her and left her for dead,” Craig said.

Her body was found six days later. There was no indication they ever met before.

Lynch and Assistant District Attorney Dana Minor and defense attorney Paul Bruno negotiated a plea with the 40-year sentence that was accepted by Judge Kane.

Debbie Ervin said she was grateful Bell took responsibility for his actions so the family was spared a trial. The family is relieved that justice was served.

She addressed Bell.

“I do pray for you often,” Ervin told Bell. “For the next 40 years, I hope you will seek out God and ask forgiveness.

“He’s got a long time to think about it,” Ervin said.

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