Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

Former convict gives to fallen detective's ailing daughter

TAMPA —Eric Frazee's wild teen years led him to state prison at age 20 for armed burglary. He was still locked up when he lost his mom to organ failure in 2012.

Now 28, he has been free since August. Last week, his name showed up online, not for criminal activity, but for benevolence.

The Clearwater man donated $500 to help pay for a liver transplant for Demetra Bell Jones, daughter of a fallen Tampa police officer. Frazee is unemployed, but his mother left him some money.

"I spent almost eight years in prison," he posted at a website where Jones' aunt is collecting contributions, "and if I can find it in my heart to help, then we can raise this money."

In 12 days, such generosity has pushed Jones $40,000 closer to having a new liver to replace one failing from a life-threatening immune system disorder. She needs $179,600 — the balance not covered by insurance — before the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville will put her on a transplant list, her family says.

"Him coming out of prison and thinking of me just makes me feel very honored and very grateful," Jones told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday. "I know God puts people in our lives for a reason and he's put him in my life. I will forever be grateful and I hope that his life continues to be well."

The 38-year-old Fort Myers woman is the daughter of Tampa police detective Randy Bell, who was killed with his partner, Rick Childers, on May 19, 1998, when a felon in custody, Hank Earl Carr, unlocked handcuffs and grabbed a gun. Carr had already killed a little boy and went on to kill a state trooper.

Jones, who has struggled with immune and blood disorders since age 9, has autoimmune hepatitis and learned nearly two weeks ago that her immunosuppresent regimen of 30 pills a day is no longer working.

Mayo Clinic, where she has been treated off and on for five years, is her hospital of choice, but considered out of network on her husband's BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee health insurance plan.

The Times and Tampa Bay area television stations described her situation last week, and Frazee saw one of the reports.

"Has she not been through enough?" he said Sunday. "Has she not had a hard enough life?"

He donated to an account at the website, GoFundMe.com, set up by the late detective's sister. A second account, the Demetra Jones Medical Fund, has since been opened at Wells Fargo. Checks, made out to the Demetra Jones Medical Fund, may be mailed to Wells Fargo, 4776 Windsor Commons Court, Jacksonville, FL, 32224.

The online site shows close to 500 contributions. People leave notes, offering prayers, encouragement and gratitude.

"Your dad served us and protected us," one donor wrote.

Daran Abella gave. Her nephew, a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy, died in a 2004 car crash while responding to a call.

Julia Massucci gave. The retired Tampa police sergeant worked in the homicide unit with Jones' father.

"The thin blue line is strong," wrote Cheryl Hurley, retired from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "We will get you what you need."

Frazee, who attended Northeast High School and worked as a welder before he went to prison, has been watching the fund online, hoping it would grow faster. He didn't seek publicity for his gift. A reporter tracked him down through his father.

But during Frazee's interview with the Times, he issued this challenge. He said if the Tampa Police Department organizes a fundraiser, he will match up to $3,000. If it's a car wash, he said, he will help wash cars.

Frazee said prison made him grow up and appreciate life. He laments that he was just a year away from release when his mother, Angela Hoover, died at 50. A respiratory therapist, she worked in hospitals, including Largo Medical Center.

"She was a very caring person," he said. She would be happy with him for doing this, he knows.

"In the end, I just want to know that I tried to do something right in my life," he said.

Jones said she would like to thank "every single solitary person" who has helped so far.

"I just think to myself that so many people love me," she said. "So many are anonymous and I don't know who they are, but I have so many friends out there."

They include a woman who, a few days ago, posted this:

"We are all your family."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Patty Ryan can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or [email protected]

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