Where Is Tracie Bell? Illinois Woman Vanishes Amid Ongoing Eviction Dispute With Family
“I’m not feeling like she’s alive, and I want to know what happened to her,” a cousin says.
An Illinois woman failed to show up for work twice in as many days. The first day, she was found at home alive but acting oddly. The second day, she was nowhere to be found — and she hasn’t been seen since.
Years later, friends, family and authorities are still asking the questions they don’t know the answers to: Did Tracie Bell just walk away from her life; did she have a terrible accident; or did something more sinister happen to her?
Tracie lived in a two-bedroom condominium in Richton Park with her daughter, Giovanna, as well as Giovanna’s husband and the couple’s two children. According to Tracie’s cousin, Stephanie Thomas, the living arrangement was difficult and Tracie asked her daughter and son-in-law to move out.
But Giovanna and her husband then welcomed a third child while still living in the apartment. “I think that’s when this husband of [Giovanna’s] then became very, I don’t know, demanding, angry, unlikeable for both Tracie and Giovanna,” Stephanie recalls.
Tracie eventually began to have problems at work because of her situation at home. She finally had enough and obtained an eviction order to get her daughter and son-in-law to leave the condo. The order was for March 5, 2018, and Tracie took time off leading up to the eviction date.
On March 6, Tracie was due back at work, but she failed to call in or show up for her administrative secretarial job at the Cook County State Attorney’s Office in Chicago — something she had never done before, according to her boss, Maurice Macklin, the now-retired deputy chief.
The news was troubling to Maurice, who says Tracie was “meticulous” and a dependable employee who became almost like a sister to him through their years working together.
Maurice notes he immediately had someone contact police to conduct a wellbeing check at Tracie’s condominium “because of the history” and what he “knew was going on with eviction and things of that nature.”
Officers found Tracie, then 54, hiding under the stairs at the condo building. Maurice says Tracie became “standoffish” with the cops, explaining she was almost “like, ‘hey, I’m okay, leave me alone,’ basically.”
Tracie never explained to the officers why she was underneath the stairs, and she refused to let paramedics examine her. Still, her boss says he was “just relieved” she was okay.
The following day, March 7, 2018, Tracie again didn’t go to work, and Maurice had Richton Park police return to her residence. He says while there were alcohol bottles and her family’s possessions scattered around the home, there was no sign of her.
She hasn’t been seen since.
Tracie’s purse was located inside her unit, but her cell phone and car keys were gone even though her car was still parked outside.
A K9 was brought in and followed Tracie’s scent from her condo to the parking lot, where the dog stopped. “It appeared like somebody picked her up and drove away,” Maurice says, adding Tracie’s car keys were later located in the lot.
Investigators learned officers had responded to Tracie’s residence in the past for domestic violence calls involving her daughter and son-in-law. Shortly before Tracie went missing, investigators say she made a call to Child Protective Services and her grandchildren were removed from their parents’ care, but they were then returned when the allegations were determined to be unfounded.
After Tracie went missing, investigators say they questioned her son-in-law and he was cooperative and provided police with his whereabouts. In police interviews, Giovanna’s memories were “inconsistent,” officials say.
According to Tracie’s cousin, Stephanie, Giovanna never participated in searches or attended memorials held for her mother. “In fact, Giovanna, she got on bad terms with all of us for one reason or another,” she says. “I believe so she would not have to deal with us.”
Despite whatever problems Giovanna and her husband may have had with each other, there was never any indication there was any violence between Tracie and her son-in-law, according to investigators.
While cleaning out Tracie’s apartment, Stephanie says she found papers among her cousin’s possessions that showed Tracie was recently in touch with an ex-boyfriend even though she always told family they hadn’t spoken in years.
While the discovery seemed like it could have something to do with the case, according to investigators, Tracie’s ex-boyfriend, who was married, appeared cooperative when questioned. He said he had only been back in contact with Tracie for a short time in the fall of 2017, and detectives uncovered evidence that indicated he was telling the truth.
With that lead exhausted, investigators went back to the evidence and began looking into whether Tracie possibly could have left of her own accord.
In December 2018, nine months after Tracie went missing, a longtime colleague reported she had seen Tracie in line ahead of her at a restaurant. Investigators went to the restaurant but surveillance video was no longer available and the lead appeared to be a dead end.
Investigators note there has been no activity on Tracie’s cell phone since the evening before she was reported missing, and there are no transactions on her bank accounts since the weekend prior to her disappearance.
“The Tracie that I know would not have just vanished into thin air,” Stephanie insists about her cousin. “I’m not feeling like she’s alive, and I want to know what happened to her.”
Tracie’s mother, Louella Bell, also refutes the theory her daughter voluntarily walked away from her life. “She had a plan of redoing her house, and she had also just got a new car,” Louella says. “So, if she was going to leave, why didn’t she take her car with her?”
In 2021, detectives combing through the case located a Richton Police Department report filed on the evening Tracie went missing, March 6, 2018. The report showed a woman appeared to be lost and confused by a local McDonald’s just 50 feet from Lake George. The woman, who investigators now believe was Tracie, refused police and paramedics’ help. If true, it would be the last known sighting of her.
Because Tracie battled diabetes, police wonder if Tracie could have had a medical emergency and ended up in the water near McDonald’s. In July 2023, authorities conducted an extensive search of Lake George but failed to turn up any evidence.
Investigators have not ruled out anything in the case, including the possibility Tracie suffered a medical or mental health emergency or met with foul play.
Neither Giovanna nor her husband were charged with any crimes related to Tracie’s disappearance. Giovanna died from a fentanyl overdose at age 33 in October 2022. Her husband was incarcerated at the time of her death because of a domestic disturbance-related issue.
“Part of me believes that Giovanna knew something,” Stephanie says.
Maurice agrees that his former employee’s daughter also knew something that could have cracked the case. “We lost the opportunity when she passed away,” he says.
According to the Cook County Sheriff, Tracie always wore or carried with her a set of sterling silver stackable rings that contained semiprecious stones. The rings were not found in her personal possessions after she went missing.
Tracie Bell has black hair and brown eyes. She is 5 feet 8 inches and weighed between 150 and 200 pounds when she disappeared. Anyone with information about Tracie’s whereabouts or the case is urged to contact the Cook County Sheriff Police’s Missing Person Project at (773) 674-9490.
For more on this case, stream Disappeared: "Trouble at Home" on Max.
“He can hide, he can run, but we’re eventually going to get him,” police say.