Sometimes we need empathy for why people choose to have crazy beliefs. In the case of Inconvenient History columnist Joe Bellinger, whose family history here matches his IH profile, the adoption of rabid Holocaust denial and antisemitism can perhaps be traced to the murder of his daughter in 1987. In 1990, his son shot two people, then escaped to New York. When his son was sentenced in 1992, Bellinger and his wife "pleaded no contest to charges that they orchestrated the escape." Bellinger was "placed on three years probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service on a felony charge." The police explained in the earlier piece that "All the problems this family has seems to have . . . stemmed from the sister's death...Joey Jr. has never been the same, and daddy has never been the same since." A decade later Bellinger emerged as a nutty denier, as Sergey documented here.
This is the first story in full:
This is the second story in full:
This is the first story in full:
CASSVILLE, N.Y. — Escaping a police manhunt after the shooting of two deaf brothers on a San Fernando Valley street corner, 16-year-old Joey Bellinger sought refuge in this sleepy farming town of about 250 residents in the mountains of Upstate New York.
While news spread quickly in Los Angeles of the Jan. 28 shooting--which left Cesar Vieira, 30, dead and his brother Edward, 25, wounded--Joey spent his days in the home of a family friend on Cassville's Main Street. He shoveled snow for neighbors and read books from the public library.
Residents of Cassville, a sparse collection of little more than two dozen homes surrounded by barns and grain silos, knew Joey as a "quiet, good-looking kid."
Within a month of his arrival, however, residents watched as a team of FBI agents and Oneida County sheriff's deputies descended on their town to arrest Joey in several unmarked, but highly conspicuous, patrol cars.
"Nothing like this ever happens here," said Shelly Walker, 38, as she ate lunch at Cassville's only restaurant, the Engine House Diner on State Route 8. "That's why everyone was so flabbergasted; to think that a (suspected) murderer was living in our town."
Cassville residents didn't know it, but they had witnessed only the latest chapter in the violent and tortured history of the Bellinger family, who were born and raised in the small towns around Utica, living there for about 30 years.
Since coming to California about 10 years ago, the family of Joseph Bellinger Sr., 40, seems to have fallen victim to the mindless criminal violence that people in Cassville and other rural towns sometimes associate with Los Angeles.
The Bellingers settled in an attractive Spanish-style apartment in the Fairfax district. In 1987, the family's 16-year-old daughter was murdered. Joey is now in custody at Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, charged with the Vieira shootings. Last month, Joseph Sr. himself was arrested and placed in custody, charged with helping his son evade capture. And on Friday, Joey's mother, Phyllis Mary Goodman, 37, was also arraigned on similar charges. Both pleaded not guilty.
Even before the shooting of the deaf brothers, Los Angeles police had identified Joey as a member of a West Los Angeles street gang called KAOS, a name taken from the television comedy series "Get Smart." The youths said the acronym stood for Kids Against Our Society.
Residents of the 400 block of North Orange Grove Avenue in the Fairfax district said the gang harassed them to the point that they demanded that the Bellingers' landlord file a lawsuit to evict the family.
The suit, filed last September in Los Angeles Municipal Court, alleged that up to 15 young men hung out at the Bellinger home day and night, engaging in "public displays of sex/marijuana smoking/urinating." Neighbors were subject to "verbal abuse, curses, threats, filthy gestures and suggestive sounds, sexual harassment, and . . . physical battery," the suit alleged.
Last July, the Bellinger home was the target of a drive-by shooting in which the picture window of their second-floor apartment was shattered. According to neighbors, enemies of Joey's gang were responsible. Unknown assailants also attacked the Bellinger home with a Molotov cocktail, burning some shrubbery.
In an interview shortly after Joey was identified as the suspect in the shootings, Joseph Bellinger Sr. contended that the landlord's lawsuit was motivated by hate and paranoia.
Although none of the Bellingers were ever arrested or criminally charged in connection with the residents' allegations, the civil suit was settled out of court when the Bellingers agreed to move to Long Beach.
"The street is so quiet now that they're gone," said Kathleen Doyle, one of about 100 Orange Grove Avenue residents who attended a neighborhood meeting to oust the Bellingers. "It's like another world."
Police said they believe that Joey may have been emotionally traumatized by the death of his 16-year-old sister, Michelle Bellinger, who was raped and murdered in 1987. Her body was found dumped in three plastic garbage bags on a Silver Lake hillside, her ankles and chest bound with duct tape.
"All the problems this family has seems to have . . . stemmed from the sister's death," said one police source familiar with the current investigation. "Joey Jr. has never been the same, and daddy has never been the same since."
Doyle, the Bellingers' neighbor on Orange Grove Avenue, added: "I knew Joey when he was a little kid. He was a nice kid. Everything that has happened to the daughter and the son I hold them (the parents) responsible for."
Shortly after Michelle's murder, the elder Bellinger began a one-man crusade to find his daughter's killer. He became an amateur pathologist, studying such things as patterns of rigor mortis and tissue decay to better understand police and coroner's reports. The case attracted media attention as Bellinger drove the streets of Silver Lake, scanning the hillsides with binoculars in a desperate search for clues.
Eventually, a 15-year-old youth was charged and convicted in the killing. Police credited Bellinger's detective work with helping to find the killer.
Joseph Sr. went on another media campaign last month, when Joey was identified as the suspect in the shooting of the Vieiras.
The elder Bellinger undertook a five-day hunger strike and arranged media interviews with people he said had witnessed the shootings and who said Joey fired at the brothers in self-defense.
Bellinger also briefly negotiated with police, saying his son would turn himself in if he received guarantees that he would be tried as a juvenile and not as an adult. Police refused. On March 5, three days after Joey's arrest in Cassville, the elder Bellinger was arrested and charged with aiding a felon.
"They want to crucify an innocent boy, who only fired in self-defense and in fear of his life," Bellinger said before Joey was arrested. "They want me to supply the nails and the cross."
Those who were with Joey Bellinger on the day of the shooting paint a very different picture of the youth, who was known to his friends by the nicknames "Thumper" and "Solo."
According to the witnesses, the trouble began when Joey and four other teen-agers were returning from watching the Super Bowl at a friend's house. The five were driving on Devonshire Street to the home of another friend when they encountered the Vieira brothers at Balboa Boulevard in Granada Hills.
Police say the two brothers could communicate only through sign language and they may not have fully understood what was about to unfold.
A 16-year-old witness, who was sitting with Joey in the back seat, told police that Joey flashed a gang sign at the brothers--a "K" for "KAOS." One of the brothers responded by flashing a middle finger. The brothers then became involved in a "stare-down" and spitting contest with the occupants of the car.
Both vehicles pulled into a parking lot. The teen-agers told police they had expected to get into a fistfight with the deaf brothers. But Joey produced a handgun. And when the gun jammed after he fired the first shot, Joey reloaded, at least two witnesses said. In all, Joey allegedly fired five shots at the deaf brothers.
Edward Vieira was struck in the shoulder and hip but survived. Cesar Vieira didn't. He lay on the parking lot with a single wound to the chest, bleeding to death. He died at Holy Cross Hospital.
Joey and his friends escaped in the Hyundai, speeding toward the San Diego Freeway. The 16-year-old witness said Joey shouted, "I smoked him. I smoked him."
A 17-year-old girl originally riding as a passenger took the wheel and drove the car away from the parking lot as Joey and one other passenger scrambled to jump back in.
"Joey Bellinger kept saying, 'I should have shot him in the head and killed him,' " the girl said. "Everybody started yelling at Joey that they were just supposed to fight. Joey said, 'Why should we go home with bruises and blood all over us when I made it simple and easy.' "
Within days, Joey had gone into hiding, police said. He fled to Upstate New York, to the home of a family friend who later said she was misled about the reasons for Joey's visit. According to phone records obtained by police, both parents apparently maintained contact with Joey.
In Los Angeles, investigators began following the father after he met with LAPD detectives Feb. 5 at the police station in Northridge, court records said.
The father went to his Long Beach home but then left to make long-distance calls from a nearby pay phone, according to records. Officers watched as Bellinger dropped quarters into the phone every three minutes. One undercover officer overheard him discussing details of the police meeting with a person presumed to be his son, records say.
Los Angeles police said the Bellinger family may have been planning to join Joey in the area around Cassville. Susan Alguire, a high school friend of Joey's mother, Phyllis Goodman, allowed Joey to stay in her home for three weeks. Alguire said Goodman, an employee at a parole office, had told her that the family was planning to return to New York because of financial difficulties they faced in California.
"My understanding is that they were relocating," Alguire told the Utica Observer-Dispatch. "What she said was that they were planning to come back home. . . . She was in the process of trying to transfer back out here and she wanted to send Joey out first."
Joey pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder Tuesday in Juvenile Court and remains in custody pending a May 16 hearing to determine if he will be prosecuted as an adult. His parents are free on bail. They were ordered to return to court April 18 for a preliminary hearing.
On Orange Grove Avenue, residents expressed relief at the news of Joey's capture. Some said they feared that Joey was hiding in the neighborhood. Few expressed surprise at allegations that Joey shot the two brothers.
"Everybody knew it was coming," said neighbor Kathleen Doyle. "People felt for a long time that Joey was an accident waiting to happen." Indeed, two months before the shooting, attorney Houston Touceda, who represented the residents, wrote a letter of warning to Los Angeles police and the city attorney.
The letter said: "Please do not ignore this cancer before it metastasizes and kills."
Times staff writers Carlos Lozano, Michael Connelly, Aaron Curtiss, Philipp Gollner and Leslie Berger contributed to this story.
A Long Beach teenager who shot two hearing-impaired Palmdale brothers after a traffic incident, killing one of them, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison but could be free in four years.
As part of a plea bargain, San Fernando Superior Court Judge Howard J. Schwab allowed Joey Paul Bellinger, 19, to serve his time in a California Youth Authority facility.
"This is a tragic case," Schwab said. "There are no winners, only losers."
Bellinger's attorney, Ezekiel P. Perlo, said Bellinger will be given credit for the nearly three years he has already been in custody and more than a year for good behavior. That means that Bellinger will be eligible for parole after serving about four years.
Perlo said the sentence was reasonable considering that Bellinger faced a maximum sentence of 30 years to life if convicted by a jury. However, he and the teen-ager's parents maintained that the shooting was in self-defense.
Bellinger's parents, Joseph Paul Bellinger Sr. and Phyllis Mary Goodman, were in the courtroom for sentencing but declined to comment.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Phil Halpin said he agreed to the settlement because some witnesses could not be found, making it more difficult to obtain a conviction if the case went to trial.
Bellinger, who was 16 at the time of the Jan. 28, 1990, incident, originally was charged with murder and attempted murder for killing Cesar Viera, 30, and wounding Edward Viera, then 25. The charges were reduced to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm in exchange for Bellinger's no-contest plea, which is the equivalent of a guilty plea for criminal court purposes.
Prosecutors said Bellinger was among a group of youths in a car that stopped for a traffic light at an intersection in Granada Hills, and exchanged glares and insults with the Vieras, who were on a motorcycle.
Both groups pulled into the parking lot of a nearby shopping center, where Bellinger fired several shots at the brothers. Edward Viera recovered.
After the shooting, Bellinger fled to the home of family friends in Upstate New York with the help of his parents. He was arrested March 2, 1990, after an intensive search by Los Angeles police and the FBI.
Bellinger's parents later pleaded no contest to charges that they orchestrated the escape. Bellinger's father was placed on three years probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service on a felony charge. His mother was sentenced on a misdemeanor charge to two years probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.