Lee Bell.JPGA San Francisco man pleaded not guilty to a murder charge today for the killing of 52-year-old Pearla Louis, the woman whose body was found inside a suitcase floating in the San Francisco Bay last month.

After being arraigned in San Francisco Superior Court this morning on one count of murder, Lee Bell, 47, was ordered held on $10 million bail.

Louis, also a San Francisco resident, was reported missing by her family May 17. Her body was discovered the next morning in the water near the Embarcadero and Folsom Street.

Police arrested Bell on Friday. He was already in custody in San Francisco County jail, having been booked May 21 for violating his probation for grand theft, police said.

Homicide inspectors have said Bell and Louis had a relationship and that Bell had been accused of abusing her on prior occasions.

Police have not released the manner of Louis’ death or a possible motive for her murder.

“Our family is actually really happy that they found the person that they believe did this to my mom,” Louis’ daughter, Ayesha Louis, said outside court after today’s hearing.
Louis said her family is just beginning the healing process.

“She still lives on, even though on May 18, her life was taken,” Louis said.

Bell’s attorney, Douglas Rappaport, acknowledged the family’s suffering.

“But I’m concerned when the family’s concerned, because that puts pressure on the Police Department, and that’s pressure that makes me suspicious of their investigation as to whether they really do have the right person,” he said.

Bell is scheduled to return to court June 21.

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