A Louisiana woman was arrested on charges of first-degree murder and obstruction of justice after she was accused of killing her boyfriend's 6-year-old daughter and burying the remains in a bucket in her mother's front yard, authorities say.
Hannah Landon, 43, is accused of murdering Bella Fontenelle and burying her remains in a 5- to 10-gallon chlorine bucket in the front yard of her mother's home in Harahan, 11 miles west of downtown New Orleans, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.
Police found the girl's remains outside her mother's house on Sedgefield Drive at around 8:20 a.m. Wednesday, less than an hour after Bella’s father reported her and Landon missing, Sheriff Joseph Lopinto told reporters last week. The mother's home is less than two blocks from where Landon lived with Bella’s father, the sheriff's office said.
Bella was pronounced dead at the scene, the sheriff’s office said. An autopsy ruled her death a homicide, the sheriff’s office said.
The cause of death was determined to be strangulation and blunt force trauma, Cap. Jason Rivarde, commander of the sheriff’s public affairs division, confirmed.
Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich told reporters Wednesday that she had “multiple injuries.”
Lopinto said authorities believe Landon killed Bella at her father’s house late Tuesday and took her remains to her mother’s house.
Landon — who is also known as Bunnak Lim and Bunnak Landon — was captured on neighbors’ security video pulling a wagon with a bucket inside it down both Donelon and Sedgefield drives, the sheriff’s office said.
Authorities secured an arrest warrant for her Wednesday afternoon and detained her later in the day after she was released from a hospital, where she had been sent for evaluation after she showed up at the police department around 1 a.m., according to the sheriff's office and online jail records. Online jail records show she was booked into custody under the name Bunnack Landon.
A judge ordered Landon to be held without bond, the sheriff’s office said. She could face the death penalty or life without parole if she is convicted, Rivarde said.
Court records show Landon has been appointed a public defender. The lawyer, Letita Jachintha Parker-Davis, said Monday morning she did not have any comment.
A motive remains unknown. Landon has refused to cooperate with investigators, and she declined to be interviewed, Rivarde said.
Investigators do not believe Bella’s parents, who had joint custody, were involved with her death, they told reporters Wednesday, adding that authorities interviewed both of them extensively.
A history of alleged altercations
Court documents obtained by NBC News show Landon has allegedly had past altercations with some of Bella's family members, including her mother.
In June 2021, Landon was served a summons for simple battery after she allegedly attacked Bella's aunt — her mother's sister — at a swim meet, allegedly leaving the woman with "visible scratches below her left eye and on her left hand," according to the police report.
"Bunnak was extremely uncooperative with officers for the duration of their time on scene, initially refusing to even identify herself," the report says.
Landon told officers that Bella's aunt attacked her unprovoked but could not produce any witnesses to corroborate her account and refused to allow officers to examine her for injuries, according to the police report.
The next month, Landon tried to file for a temporary restraining order against Bella's mother and aunt, alleging that they attacked her at the swim meet and that Bella's mother had "made multiple threats of harm" against her. The restraining order was later dissolved, and Landon's petition for a permanent injunction and damages was denied, court documents show.
Family decries a 'senseless and heinous act'
Landon and Bella’s father had been together for “several years,” said Lopinto, the sheriff.
He said her death was “a big shock to the small community of Harahan.”
Harahan Police Chief Ed Lepre said there is no threat to the public. Lepre got choked up as he offered condolences to Bella’s family at a news conference last week.
“My heart and my prayers go out to the family of this child,” he said. “This is a senseless type of incident that happened.”
Bianca Cano, Bella’s aunt, called her death a "senseless and heinous act" that "has forever destroyed my family" on a GoFundMe page she set up to pay for funeral expenses and support Bella's mother.
"No words can describe the pain that is running through our bodies," Cano wrote. "It’s truly inhumane."
She described Bella as "beyond perfection."
"Your beautiful little voice, your funny personality, the way you danced, the way you were so delicate and fragile, your smile, your laugh, the way you expressed yourself. I can go on and on about how amazing this little soul was," Cano wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Bella was a student at St. Matthew the Apostle School in River Ridge, a census-designated place about 2 miles northwest of Harahan, NBC affiliate WDSU of New Orleans reported.
In an email to parents, school officials called said Bella's death was "a horrific tragedy that will impact our school and parish community." They said classes would be canceled April 27 and 28 to allow students and faculty members time to process her death.