A Virginia jury this afternoon found Bob Shell guilty of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and seven other counts in the accidental death of his friend, model Marion Franklin, the Roanoke Times has reported. The jury declined to convict him of the more serious charge of homicide.
Shell is the author of 24 books on cameras and photography. Although he has published articles in many magazines, he is best known to photographers as the former Technical Editor and later Editor-in-Chief of Shutterbug magazine. He transformed Shutterbug from its roots as a newsprint classifieds rag into a major international newsstand magazine.
The details of the case against him were sensational. Best known as a boudoir and glamour photographer who was often criticized for his plainspoken pictures in Shutterbug of what one writer called "local girls in their underwear in the woods," Shell had been turning his attention more to nude and fetish photography when the then-19-year-old Franklin, among other things a bondage model, died of an accidental overdose of morphine in his Radford, Virginia, studio. Among other lurid charges, police alleged that they confiscated photographic evidence of Shell having sex with Franklin after she was dead.
The defilement of a corpse charges were dropped late in the trial. Shell steadfastly alleged misconduct and incompetence on the part of police and prosecutors during the investigation, who he claimed lost and altered evidence and repeatedly impeded the defense. The prosecutor in the case tried to paint him as an older man who was infatuated with the younger woman and drugged her in order to take advantage of her. Shell has maintained that, to the contrary, he and Franklin were in involved in an ongoing relationship, a claim backed up by the fact that his wife was in the process of divorcing him at the time of Franklin's death in part because of the affair.
UPDATE: The jury has recommended sentencing of 32 years, 6 months in prison, on charges of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of distributing morphine, possession of morphine, distributing diazepam, two counts of attempted animate object penetration, and one count of attempted forcible sodomy. The charges carry a minimum of 6 years to a maximum of 131 years. Shell is currently 60 years old.