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Office of the Bucks County District Attorney

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Woman Sentenced for Setting Fire to Cheating Husband's Car

March 31, 2016

Contact: Marc Furber, 215.348.6339, mjfurber@buckscounty.org

A North Carolina woman who set fire to her husband’s car outside a Bensalem motel room where he and his girlfriend were staying was sentenced this morning to state prison.

Diane Bell told a Bucks County judge that she had tracked down her husband and his paramour last March at the Lincoln Motel on Old Lincoln Highway. Her initial intent was to bash out the windows of his parked 2004 Audi with a baseball bat.

But when she heard the couple through the motel door loudly having sex, she said, “I just snapped.” She went to a nearby Wawa store, bought a red fuel container, filled it at the gas pump, and returned to douse and torch the Audi.

The resulting inferno destroyed two vehicles, scorched a third, damaged four motel rooms and displaced six endangered guests, including the offending couple. It also earned Bell a 2 ½ to 5-year state prison sentence from Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr.

“You let your emotions get the best of you,” Bateman told Bell, 44, of High Point, N.C. “You set a car on fire, and in doing so, you endangered every person in that motel.”

Also sentenced this morning was Teresa Douglas, 37, a Philadelphia friend whom Bell had recruited to drive her to and from the motel. Douglas received an 8- to 23-month county prison sentence.  

Bell and Douglas had pleaded guilty to their roles in the arson in October, after which Bateman ordered both to undergo psychiatric evaluations. Bell pleaded guilty to arson and other charges, while Douglas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson.

Bell said she already was in fragile emotional health when she and her husband, Steve Pabon, arrived in Philadelphia last month for a visit.

Her mother was ailing. Bell had recently found erotic pictures of her husband and another woman on his cell phone. She was still recovering from the death of an infant daughter, and had been under a psychiatrist’s care for several years.

Pabon told his wife he would be staying with his father while she tended to her mother. But when Bell learned that Pabon never arrived at his father’s house, she used a search history on his old cell phone to track him down at the motel.

She then recruited her friend Douglas, who admitted she had been drinking, to drive her to the motel. Douglas said Bell took a baseball bat with her.

“My belief was that we were going to the Lincoln Motel to break the windows out” of Pabon’s car, Douglas told Bateman.

They located the Audi, but then heard amorous noises coming from the room just beyond the car. “The betrayal, the hurt, it was just too much for me to handle,” Bell told Bateman. “It was overwhelming.”

She directed Douglas to drive them to the nearby Wawa, where Douglas purchased a bowl of soup. Turning around in the checkout line, she saw Bell preparing to purchase a gas container, which Bell filled at the pump.

Douglas said she saw Bell douse the Audi with gas, and attempted briefly to help her light it. But then she thought better of it. “I told her, `You know what, let’s just get back in the car,’” Douglas recalled.

No one was injured in the fire, but it caused more than $73,000 in property damage, which Bateman ordered the two women to repay. Police soon identified Bell in part via security video at the Wawa and at the motel.

Attending the sentencing was Pabon, the unfaithful husband, who testified on his wife’s behalf.

“Everything’s from my wrongdoing; she’s been nothing but a great woman to me,” Pabon said tearfully. “I know I broke her heart.”

Pabon and Bell, who had no prior criminal record, said that they have reconciled and have been attending marriage counseling.

“If anyone deserves to be convicted, I deserve it,” Pabon said. “She don’t deserve no jail time.”

Bateman disagreed. In addition to the prison sentences, he ordered Bell to be placed on 10 years of consecutive probation – and Douglas five years – and for both to continue with their mental health treatment.

Deputy District Attorney Marc J. Furber, who prosecuted the case, praised the investigative work of Bensalem police detectives Gregory Jackson and Thomas Jackson, “who brought Bell and Douglas to justice.”   

Approved for release by Robert James, Deputy District Attorney.


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Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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