Valley Center Man Faces Trial on Charges of Threats

Times Staff Writer

Robert Lee Bell, the Valley Center resident who once allegedly threatened to make last year's McDonald's massacre look like "a walk through a rose garden" and later agreed to receive therapy, has been ordered to stand trial on charges of making threatening phone calls.

Bell allegedly made the calls to a Valley Center deputy sheriff and to Escondido psychologist Lee McGough, who reported Bell to authorities in October, citing Bell's statements that he was prepared to have a gunfight with police.

McGough, according to court documents filed in October, told sheriff's deputies that Bell made such statements to him as, "I am a time bomb with the seconds ticking away," and "It's starting to be fun, looking forward to the fire fight between them and me. I'm going to take a lot of them with me."

Sheriff's deputies raided Bell's home in October and found more than two dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, along with military rations, a gas mask and a will that was tacked to a wall.

Bell was arrested and placed in protective custody. His bail was set at $1 million, then lowered to $500,000 before he eventually was released on the condition that he undergo therapy and counseling at the Veteran's Administration hospital in La Jolla.

Bell had maintained that he was a gunsmith, that he processed his own ammunition for target shooting, and that the gas masks and food rations were in the event his family was stranded by a grass fire in the brushy area.

Bell again was arrested July 3, charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of making threatening phone calls during May and June to McGough and Deputy Jon Christiansen, who lives and patrols in the Valley Center area.

The phone calls threatened physical harm to the men, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Phil Walden, who heads the Vista district attorney's office.

On Tuesday, Bell pleaded innocent to the most recent charges, and Municipal Court Judge Suzanne Knauf ordered him to stand trial on the charges Aug. 23. She also ordered him to justify why his probation on charges of assault and brandishing a weapon should not be revoked. In January, Bell had pleaded no contest to charges that he tried to run down a construction worker, and then waved a flashlight in a threatening manner.

Walden said Wednesday that Bell is no longer receiving therapy because "the VA hospital said he's OK."

Bell's attorney, Joseph Judge, declined to comment on the case.

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