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Suspects in Cumberland murders appear in court for initial hearing

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The two men accused of killing a Cumberland 7-year-old girl and her 21-year-old uncle appeared in court for an initial hearing Thursday morning.

Michael Bell, 22, and Jeremy Priel, 25, were formally charged Wednesday in connection with the murders of Kyleigh and Jeremy Crane. Both suspects were charged with murder, robbery and carrying a handgun without a license.

At the hearing Thursday, the victims’ family sat in silence as both suspects appeared before a judge.

“It’s just a trying time,” said Prosecutor Denise Robinson. “They just buried their family members and now starting the court process for anyone.”

Bell requested a public defender.  He faces a maximum prison sentence of 156 years for the alleged crimes. Bell will appear in court again on February 1 for a pretrial and on February 27.

Priel faces a maximum prison sentence of 156 years.  Priel entered a not-guilty plea.  He will appear in court for a jury trial February 27 and has a pretrial scheduled for February 1.  Priel was also appointed a public defender in court Thursday.

Bell told conflicting stories about what happened on December 12, the day Kyleigh and Jeremy Crane were fatally shot in the head. In an exclusive jailhouse interview, Bell told Fox59 he was not inside the home at the time of the shootings.  However, according to a probable cause affidavit released Wednesday, Bell told police he was present when Jeremy Crane was murdered.

Prosecutors told Fox59 Thursday that it does not matter who fired the shots.

“It’s not required to prove who pulled the trigger under Indiana law,” said Prosecutor Robinson. “Both are equally culpable.”

A long-time friend of Bell said he may be a robber but did not believe he would commit murder.

“If you do the crime, you gotta pay the time, but he is not that type of person,” said Trisha Dunlap, friend of Bell.

According to Bell, he and Priel went to the Crane home to steal a PlayStation 3 and Xbox.  Two other men came to police several days later, stating they were sold the gaming systems.  They said they traded $40 and an ounce of marijuana for them.

Bell was a close friend of Jeremy’s.  Family members said Bell was often referred to as “Uncle Mike” and even lived with the family at one point.