How a Columbia County man accused of rape, kidnapping tried to escape arrest

New details have been released about a manhunt in Lake City that led to the arrest of a suspect accused of rape and kidnapping.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – New details have been released about a manhunt in Lake City that led to the arrest of a suspect accused of rape and kidnapping.

James Anderson Bell, 36, now faces multiple felony charges including sexual battery and kidnapping of children.

A judge set his bond on five of his charges at more than $2 million but also ordered he remains in jail without bond on two counts of battery.

Multiple law enforcement agencies took part in the manhunt for Bell after investigators said he raped a woman at gunpoint and then kidnapped her children. According to the arrest report, the victim is a woman who told police Bell had been living with her and her children for the past two weeks and she had been trying to kick him out of her home.

News4JAX has learned one of the three kids he allegedly took is a kid he had with the victim and the other two kids were not his. News4JAX also learned new details about how he was taken into custody.

Columbia County investigators said it was somewhere near a road next to train tracks off Washington Street in Lake City where Bell dropped off the kids he allegedly kidnapped. Then 911 dispatch received a call from a tipster who spotted Bell running alongside railroad tracks knowing law enforcement was looking for him. A neighbor News4JAX is not identifying for safety reasons said authorities from multiple agencies set up a perimeter around the area and were telling neighbors to stay inside their homes.

Train tracks near wear deputies tracked down a man accused of rape and kidnapping in Columbia County. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The same neighbor said hours later when he and his girlfriend came outside onto their porch, the unthinkable happened.

“He walked up beside us breathing heavily and asking to come in the house. And I told him no. I got kids in there. Can’t come in there. They said you got a gun and kidnapped someone and he said that was a lie,” the neighbor said.

The neighbor said Bell asked him if he sneak him out of the area and said he told Bell no. The neighbor said Bell complained about being thirsty so he got him some water and at the same time covertly alerted a nearby deputy. The neighbor said when authorities started to close in on Bell, he tried to get away.

A man said a portion of his fence was knocked down when Bell tried to jump it as he was trying to escape.

Bell was not able to get away and was immediately captured. Deputies said he told them he was hiding in the nearby woods. The man I spoke with said he was happy this ordeal ended without anyone getting shot.

Bell was charged with:

  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated assault
  • Sexual Battery
  • Cruelty towards children
  • Two counts of battery
  • Grand theft

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