Drake Bell’s Ex Says She Witnessed the ‘Drake & Josh’ Star Preying on Underage Girls
Melissa Lingafelt claimed she was abused by the ‘Drake and Josh’ star last year. “I don’t pray that people will come forward,” she tells The Daily Beast. “I know that they will.”
On Thursday, Drake & Josh star Jared “Drake” Bell was arrested in Cleveland, Ohio, and charged with attempted child endangerment for allegedly sending sexual messages to a 15-year-old. The news came as a shock to many fans of the Nickelodeon sitcom, but was no surprise to Bell’s ex-girlfriend, who came forward nearly a year ago with her own harrowing tale of abuse at the hands of the actor when she was an underage teen.
In a series of TikTok videos posted last August, Melissa Lingafelt, who dated Bell when she was 16 and he was 20, detailed how he emotionally and physically abused her over the course of their three-year relationship, from 2006 to 2009. “I don’t even want to get into the underage girls thing,” she concluded in the since-deleted TikTok. “I mean, I will, but I’m scared.”
The video spread like wildfire online, and soon after Lingafelt, who records music under the stage name Jimi Ono, says she received a flood of messages from other former girlfriends of Bell’s, who recounted similar allegations. There were also concerning messages from fans who claimed they had sexual relationships with the adult actor when they were underage.
Lingafelt was quickly lambasted by fans, who demanded proof of the abuse and questioned why she was speaking out now. “Last time I checked, abuse doesn’t have an expiration date,” she tells The Daily Beast.
However, the story quickly died down when Bell issued a statement claiming that he’d never abused Lingafelt and attempted to cast doubt on her motive for coming forward. But now, Bell, 34, has a mugshot on charges that Lingafelt, 31, claims that she’s observed firsthand.
“What he’s being arrested for right now is a prime example of what I would witness, him having inappropriate conversations online with underage girls,” she says, claiming that she had seen him exchanging emails with “extremely young girls.”
“I saw really questionable, crazy shit on his computer. The stuff he’d be looking at was fucking insane.”
“I don’t pray that people will come forward,” she adds. “I just know that they will.”
Bell has been charged with disseminating matter harmful to juveniles and attempted child endangerment related to an incident that occurred in December 2017 in Cleveland. He was performing at the Odeon Concert Club where he “violated his duty of care and, in doing so, created a risk of harm to the victim,” according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.
The victim, age 15, made the initial report to her local police department in Canada in October 2018, which was then referred to police in Cleveland. It is not clear when the investigation concluded or what suddenly prompted his arrest. Bell, who moved to Mexico, changed his name to Drake Campana, and has been releasing music in Spanish, appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty. As is standard practice in the state, he was asked to submit a DNA test. Bell did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
For Lingafelt, Bell’s arrest brings no form of vindication. “I don’t have any happiness about this,” she says. “I would love to not have any association [with him]. It makes me nervous, it gives me a lot of anxiety, to be honest. I want the people—the kids—to be able to talk for themselves and stand up for themselves. I’m glad they won’t be hushed in the same way that I was. I hope that me talking about my bullshit was able to help someone else come forward. So, I guess it’s bittersweet in a way, like, everyone who was calling me a piece of shit, can you just look at this?”
Lingafelt describes her relationship with Bell as “highly tumultuous” and “really awful.” “He was extremely physical. Multiple times the cops would be called,” she shares. “I would run away; I would leave the house, because he had trained me to protect him. So, if the cops were called, I would just get out of there.”
Lingafelt scoffed at Bell’s initial denial and the subsequent coverage of it, saying that her claims were basically swept under the rug afterward. “They didn’t cover that all these other girls who dated him for years are saying the exact same thing,” she says.
“Everyone was coming at me, ‘Give me proof that he fucking beat you.’ But who the fuck was asking Drake for proof that I asked him for money? Not a single fucking soul. It was just covered up. His comeback letter was highlighted more than my actual [claim].”
Lingafelt initially shared her story last August in a TikTok, writing in the caption, “This is my truth. I hope this message reaches young girls, and that no one has to go through what I did. #2020survivor.”
She then proceeded to share images of the couple during their relationship, saying, “I don’t really care if anyone believes me, as this is my story, and my life, and something that I went through. It wasn’t until recently that I actually realized that abuse isn’t something that all women have to go through. When I started dating Drake, I was 16, I was homeschooled, I moved in with him, I was singing. It wasn’t until about a year when the verbal abuse started.”
“When I say ‘verbal abuse’ I mean imagine the worst type of verbal abuse you could ever imagine, and that was what I got,” she added. “It then turned into physical: hitting, throwing, everything. At the pinnacle of it, he [dragged] me down the stairs of our house in Los Feliz. My face hit every step on the way down. I have photos of this.”
Lingafelt says she was then inundated with messages from other women, including from his former girlfriend Paydin Layne LoPachin, who dated Bell for five years. Sharing their conversation on TikTok, LoPachin told Lingafelt, “I went through the same horrific verbal, physical, and mental abuse… There were so many days where I thought Melissa went through this and she got out!”
One anonymous woman alleged that Bell committed statutory rape in 2007 when he took her 15-year-old friend’s virginity. Another woman claimed Bell raped her when she was in the eighth grade, writing, “this guy that I had idolized as a kid was a rapist. He was a fucking sicko.”
Lingafelt, for her part, recalls an incident where Bell became so enraged with her for taking too long in the store that he attempted to hold her down in a bathtub and burn her with scalding hot water from the tap.
“It’s been pretty wild for me because you hide something like that for 10 years and then all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘I need to talk about this.’ And you do,” she says. “But then you get heat for it. I literally was like, ‘Oh my god, I shouldn’t have said anything. I should have kept my mouth shut.’ But I’ve been slowly working on myself.”