Last week, we discussed the reporting on the murder of a D.C. middle school principal and questions about whether his “gay lifestyle” had played a role in the murder.
News today that the victim allegedly met the suspects on a sex chat line or website and that three 18-year-old men have been arrested. So let’s look at how the story is being reported:
A third teenager has been charged with the shooting death of District school principal Brian Betts in what authorities are calling a robbery-murder set up through online and phone sex chats.
Dontra Q. Gray, 18, of Oxon Hill, is accused of first-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy. Montgomery County County police said Gray and two other teens got themselves invited to Betts’ Silver Spring home after a brief chat through Adam4Adam, a Web site catering to gay men seeking romance. Betts’ body was found April 15 after the 42-year-old didn’t show up to work at the Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson. He had been shot in the back, but there was no sign of forced entry.
Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said that there was no indication the teens had any relationship with Betts before the educator arranged a meeting with one or more of them on the phone line. Officers said they think the trio used the chat line to find a target to rob.
“We believe the motive for this crime was most likely robbery,” Manger said. Officers offered no details about how the robbery went wrong or why Betts was shot.
Betts, 42, principal at Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson and one of the public faces of education reform efforts in the District, was found dead in his Silver Spring home April 15 by colleagues worried after he failed to show up for work.
At first, the case was a mystery. No one could imagine who would want to harm an educator who knew many of his students by name, greeted them and parents outside the school in the mornings and, to many, became a father figure.
Police believe the motive was robbery, Manger said. Police don’t believe the slaying was random, though they can’t rule that out. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide by gunshot.
One or more of the suspects connected with Betts through a phone chatline the night he was last seen alive. Betts found the chatline through a computer website described as a “sexually-oriented, social-networking website,” Manger said.
Three 18-year-old men who allegedly met gay D.C. middle school principal Brian Betts through a telephone sex chat line were arrested this week in connection with his shooting death, police said.
Alante Saunders, whom Montgomery County Police said had no fixed address, and Sharif Tau Lancaster, who lives along the 5300 block of Fifth Street, N.W., in D.C., were charged Monday with first-degree murder, armed robbery and the use of a handgun in a felony crime of violence.
Deonatra Q. Gray, who lives along the 1300 block of Southview Drive in Oxon Hill, Md., was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, one count of armed robbery, and one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
“While the motive of the crime is still being investigated, we believe that it is most likely going to be robbery,” said Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger during a news conference Monday.
Betts, 42, was found shot to death April 15 in a second floor bedroom of his house in Silver Spring, Md. Police said they found his fully clothed body after colleagues at D.C.’s Shaw Middle School, where he worked as principal, became concerned when Betts failed to report to work.
Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said Monday that it appeared Betts met his assailants though a social-networking site. The Washington Examiner, quoting an unnamed police source, identified that site as “Adam4Adam.” Sgt. C. Thomas Jordan, a police spokesperson, could not confirm which site Betts may have used. Adam4Adam, an entirely free social-networking site, bills itself as a tool “for gay men looking for friendship, romance, dating or a hot hookup.”
Following a similar report from NBC4.com prior to Manger’s confirmation of Betts’s use of a social-networking site, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) issued a community advisory April 23, also citing the Dec. 27 murder of Anthony Perkins, a 29-year-old gay man. According to an investigator in that case, Perkins was lured to the 2900 block of 4th Street SE by someone he spoke with on the “DC Raven” telephone chat line. In the Perkins case, Antwan Holcomb has been charged with first-degree murder.
It’s interesting how the hook-up/chat line is described in the different reports and how Betts’ sexual orientation is discussed (or not discussed) by the outlets. I’m not sure the Washington Post has ever identified Betts as gay–the WaPo coverage has bordered on hagiography–or described the theory of the case as a potential hook-up killing.
Should the fact Betts is gay be reported? Does it make the gay community look bad that he was possibly hooking-up on a gay chat line? Should that matter?