May 4, 2010

Brian Betts killed by men responding to call to dating chat line, police say

Four people have been arrested and two have been charged with murder in connection with the April 14 slaying of Washington, D.C., school principal Brian Betts, who Montgomery County Police believe called a dating chat line the night of his death and was killed by the men who responded. The arrests, made throughout the District and Prince George's County Monday, are major developments in the otherwise quiet three-week investigation that began after Betts was found dead April 15 in his home on Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring, the victim of at least one gunshot wound.

Alante Saunders, 18, with no fixed address, and Sharif Tau Lancaster, 18, of the 5300 block of Fifth Street NW in Washington, D.C., were both arrested in the 1300 block of Southview Drive in Oxon Hill Monday. Both have been charged with first-degree murder and will have a bond hearing Tuesday in Montgomery County District Court in Rockville. Lancaster's fingerprints were found inside Betts' bedroom and Saunders' fingerprints were found inside and outside Betts' 2007 Nissan Xterra, which was stolen from his residence the night of his murder and found on April 17 in the 3900 block of Fourth Street SE in the District, alleged Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger in a press conference Monday evening.

Another 18-year-old male with no fixed address is expected to be charged with first-degree murder as well, Manger said, but he will not be identified until those charges are filed. Police also arrested Artura Otey Williams, 46, at her home in the 5300 block of Fifth Street NW in Washington, D.C., Monday morning, after executing a search warrant. Williams, who is Lancaster's mother, has been charged with two counts of knowingly receiving a stolen credit card with the intent to use it, attempted theft less than $1,000 in value, and attempted fraudulent credit card use, Manger said. Williams is in police custody in D.C. awaiting extradition to Montgomery County, said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

There is surveillance footage of Williams using Betts' credit cards on April 16 at the Giant Foods grocery store at 1280 East West Highway in Silver Spring, according to a police news release. It is not known why she was in Silver Spring a day after Betts' body was found, said Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. Betts' wallet was found in the Southview Drive residence, as was a receipt for a pair of Nike shoes dated after police believe Betts was killed, which is around 11:30 p.m. April 14, Manger said.

Manger said the suspects were connected to Betts through a national chat line "described as a sex chat line and social networking line." Police do not know how many people responded to Betts' home or how the suspects were connected to the chat line, but they said that the motive for Betts' death is believed to be robbery. Both Lancaster and Saunders have no known ties to Betts prior to the alleged phone call, the news release said. Additional suspects and charges may follow, Manger said. SOURCE: Gazette

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