November 11, 1997 in Nation/World

Daughter Finds Mom Brutally Slain Woman’s Quadruplets Crawling Nearby, Each Wearing A Life Vest

Associated Press

A 13-year-old girl described the scene in a frantic call to 911: her mother’s body in a pool of blood, the woman’s quadruplet toddlers crawling nearby, unharmed, each wearing a life vest.

“My mom is dead,” the sobbing girl told the dispatcher as one of the toddlers wailed in the background. “There’s blood from the laundry room all the way to. … Oh my God, who would do this?”

Investigators have no suspects in the slaying Friday of 35-year-old Sheila Bellush, who had moved to Sarasota from Texas with her husband and children a month ago.

She apparently knew her killer, the investigators said. There was no evidence of a break-in.

“It was a very bloody, horrendous scene, especially with those toddlers in there running around,” Sarasota sheriff’s Lt. William Stookey said.

The 23-month-old quadruplets were wearing life jackets, perhaps because their mother was preparing them for a swim in the backyard pool. Authorities said it also is possible the killer outfitted them to make sure they didn’t wander into trouble.

Police would not release a cause of death and gave no other details.

Detectives traveled Monday to San Antonio to interview Bellush’s ex-husband, Allen Blackthorne, and released a composite sketch of a young man who had asked directions at a gasoline station to the street where the Bellush family lived.

Sheila Bellush, husband James and the children moved to Florida from San Antonio, where the births of the quadruplets in 1995 transformed them into local celebrities.

Sheila Bellush’s lawyer, Ken Nunley, said the family had moved to escape mounting pressures, including fighting allegations of abuse involving a 12-year-old daughter, raising the quadruplets and coping with intense media scrutiny.

Stevie, her 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, found her mother when she returned from school Friday.

“The kitchen drawer is open,” she said on the 911 tape through hysterical sobs. “There’s blood all over the phone. This is my mom.”

The girl said on the tape, released Saturday, that her mother’s throat had been cut. Bloodstain patterns showed Sheila Bellush may have tried to crawl on the floor of the rented home before she died.

Sheila Bellush apparently was last seen alive when her husband, a pharmaceutical representative, went to work and Stevie went to school. James Bellush has been in seclusion and unavailable for comment.

Sheila Bellush had Stevie and another daughter, 12-year-old Daryl, with Blackthorne. After they were divorced in 1988, she took custody of the two girls. Blackthorne gave up parental rights several months ago.

Felony assault charges had been filed against Sheila Bellush shortly before the move to Florida, stemming from allegations made by Daryl, who said she had been beaten with a belt that raised welts on her legs.

Child Protective Services caseworkers investigated and later dropped the state’s effort to take temporary custody of the girl. Caseworkers and four therapists said there was no evidence of “any injury that amounts to child abuse” and there was no indication that the Bellush home was not a “safe, stable and caring environment.”

The four tots - Frankie, Timothy, Joseph and Courtney - and the older girls are staying with members of the Sarasota Baptist Church, where the family attended services.

“They’re struggling,” said church representative Greg Lester.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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