Anthony Clay-Rappaselli, former Reading High School basketball player, to stand trial in killing of Robert Bell

Author: , Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published: Jul 31 2013 11:30:38 AM EDT   Updated On: Jul 31 2013 06:03:00 PM EDT
READING, Pa. -

A former standout player on the Reading High School basketball team was ordered by a judge Wednesday to stand trial on charges of first and third degree murder.

Anthony Clay-Rappaselli stands accused of stabbing Robert Bell to death outside a church at North 12th and Windsor streets in Reading on April 24.

According to police, Bell, 33, was walking down the street with his girlfriend around when Clay-Rappaselli, a senior at RHS, ran up from behind and stabbed him in broad daylight.

Wednesday's hearing lasted less than an hour, and two different pictures were painted inside the courtroom.

Bell's family members said he was an easy-going guy who didn't deserve to die.

Clay-Rappaselli's attorneys said Bell had a history of violence, and there is more to the story.

Clay- Rappaselli kept quiet when he walked out of his preliminary hearing, but his grandmother had a lot to say.

"I pray the charges get dropped, and I feel like this was in self-defense," said Jane Clay.

Bell's fiancee, Natasha Sanders, broke down on the stand when she recounted his final moments. She wiped away tears as she placed Clay-Rappaselli at the scene and said she saw him pull a 10-12 inch blade out of Bell's stomach.

Bell's family called it the ultimate betrayal.

"For him to do that to Robert was shocking, I didn't believe Anthony would do it when someone told me," said Calvin Revell, Bell's uncle.

Testimony revealed the 19-year-old has two children with Bell's stepdaughter, and he was like a member of their family.

Sanders testified Clay-Rappaselli ran up to them on the street, and she grabbed him by the shirt to give her fiancee time to get away. She also said Clay-Rappaselli then threatened her with the knife. Clay-Rappaselli fled the scene and remained at large until his arrest a few weeks later.

"I just don't understand why he would do that. It's not worth it. He not only killed someone, he took his own life away from him," said Revell.

Clay-Rappaselli's attorney, James Polyak, said Bell had previously smoked the drug PCP and had a history of threatening his client before. Polyak said there is more to the case than was presented Wednesday in court, and now it's a matter for the jury to decide.

"We're believing it was self-defense, and when we get to the court, it will come out," said Larry Burdine, Clay-Rappaselli's cousin.

Clay-Rappaselli's is due back in court for his formal arraignment on August 12.