Montgomery County, Maryland police have charged three teenagers with murdering a popular gay Washington, D.C. middle school principal. It was the second such similar killing for the nation’s capital over the last six months.
Deontra Gray, Sharif Lau Lancaster and Alante Saunders, all 18 years old, had met Brian Betts on a phone sex chat line just hours before he was killed. Lancaster’s mother, Artura Otey Williams, 46, has been released after being charged with misdemeanors connected to Betts’ stolen credit cards.
Officials say that the search for suspects is not over yet. Police say that it’s still an open investigation and that more arrests are possible. Police believe that robbery was the motive. Betts, 42, was found dead in his home on April 15 after failing to appear for work.
According to The Washington Post: “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.”
The murder occurred in the aftermath of a similar crime in which a gay man, Anthony Perkins, was shot to death in December 2009 after arranging to meet faceto-face with someone he’d met on a similar phone chat line.
While chat services have mainly migrated Online, the Post reports that there’s still a large and profitable phone line industry.
On April 23, Washington, D.C.-based LGBT service organization The Center issued a warning through its Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence initiative. The warning said that, “In light of the recent murders of Anthony Perkins and Brian Betts, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) has reason to believe that gay men who arrange sexual encounters through websites, chat rooms, or apps may be being targeted for violent crime.”
Since 2008 Betts had served as principal at Shaw Middle School. He was described by one of his students as “the father I never had, because my real father was always in and out of my life.” The educator became a high-profile advocate for reform in D.C.’s school system, and was lauded by the system’s Chancellor as a person who was “truly amazing.”