Judge sentences man to life for 2010 domestic violence suitcase murder

A San Francisco Superior Court judge sentenced a man to 25 years to life in prison today for murdering his girlfriend nearly eight years ago and then placing her body in a suitcase, which was later found floating in the Bay.

Today's sentence comes after a jury last year found Lee Bell, 55, guilty of first-degree murder for Pearla Louis' death in 2010.

For Pearla Louis' family the tears began even before sentencing got underway.

Louis' body was discovered in May 2010 when a suitcase washed ashore on San Francisco's Embarcadero. San Francisco Police arrested Lee Bell her boyfriend and charged him with murder.

The prosecution said a long history of abuse and DNA evidence on the suitcase pointed to Bell. He was found guilty last year and now the judge has sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison.

Ayesha Louis, the victim's daughter, said she'd spent enough time being angry. "{If} anything, when it comes to our family and our legacy, or imprint that we've left on the city of San Francisco, it's love and forgiveness," said Ayesha Louis.

The victim's son, Kareem Marshall, had dark thoughts of revenge years ago, but is now focused on his new life teaching and sharing his mother's life experiences. 

"I've been able to write my own class that I wrote a curriculum for. And specifically in that class we talk about domestic violence," said Marshall.

Pearla Louis' children remember the signs of abuse before their mother's murder and want others in danger to look for a way out. "In her mind, she believed, like many women, that he loved her," said Ayesha Louis.

The District Attorney says he followed this case from start to finish, first as police chief and now as district attorney.

After a three year decline he says there has been a recent increase in the number of domestic violence cases even as victims tell his office they're too afraid to come forward.

"What our victims and what our witnesses are telling us is they're afraid to come to court and they're afraid to engage the police and prosecutors for fear of being deported," said Gascon.

As for Bell, in court he said his trial was more like a lynching than justice.

He said he didn't kill the victim in this case, but that he was responsible for her death. He even began to spontaneously confess to a cold case before the judge advised him to consult with his attorney.

The District Attorney's office told me they will follow up on that confession. We asked to talk with Bell's attorney, but he declined.