May 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Fourth suspect arrested in gay principal’s slaying

Police in Montgomery County, Md., announced the arrest Wednesday of a fourth suspect charged in the murder of gay D.C. middle school principal Brian Betts.

Joel Johnson, 19, whose address could not be confirmed, was apprehended by D.C. police at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday along the 100 block of Ivanhoe Street, S.W., according to a police statement.

The statement from Montgomery County police says he was charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of armed robbery and three counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He was being held at the D.C. jail pending extradition proceedings that would move him to Montgomery County.

Betts, 42, was found shot to death April 15 in an upper floor bedroom in his house in Silver Spring, Md. Earlier this month, police arrested Sharif Lancaster, Alante Saunders, and Deontra Gray — each 18 years old — on first-degree murder and armed robbery charges in connection with the Betts murder.

Police also charged Artura Otey Williams, 46, the mother of Lancaster, with receiving and using a credit card stolen from Betts by the three men charged in the murder.

Police said Betts met one or more of the three teens charged with his murder through a telephone sex chat line. Betts became the second D.C. area gay man to be murdered and at least the third to be attacked and robbed by someone they met through an Internet or phone chat line since last December.

Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence recently issued alerts urging people to use caution when meeting strangers through social networking venues such as the Internet or phone chat lines.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • I hope Artura Otey Williams, 46, the mother of Lancaster, gets the death penalty along with the four of them.

    • As much as this whole thing pisses me off, I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t tell her that the credit card was from someone that they murdered, maybe that they just robbed someone. Granted, she’s still a P.O.S.–as both a mother and a human being–but I can’t assume that she knew about the murder.

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