Digital files released this month in the case of two teens accused of beating to death an 88-year-old World War II veteran in Spokane last summer offer a compelling look into the lives of the suspects and an angry community.
What they don’t show is new insight into why the violent death occurred.
Among the files, a breathless 911 call relaying the violence visible inside Delbert Belton’s Ford sedan juxtaposes with the Facebook selfies and middle-school basketball tournament brackets downloaded by suspects Kenan Adams-Kinard, 17, and Demetruis Glenn, 16, who remain jailed on charges of killing Belton.
“He’s not talking, but he grabbed my hand,” Natalie Flom can be heard telling a dispatcher on 911 tapes. She is a friend of Belton’s who first found him bloodied in the parking lot of the Eagles Lodge Ice Rink around 8:15 p.m. Aug. 21. Belton died the next morning.
The evidence includes a photograph of a purported confession letter linked to Adams-Kinard. While Glenn surrendered within a few days of the beating death, police found Adams-Kinard in a friend’s basement apartment. After he walked out of the home to surrender, investigators searching the property found the handwritten note describing a drug deal gone wrong that has provided the only motive for the attack.
“My intentions were to get a zip of crack and be on my way,” reads the letter, which has Adams-Kinard’s name signed at the bottom. The letter is written in a looping hand and blue ink that differs from the scratchy signature in the bottom-left margin. It describes the beating and claims Belton gave a smaller amount of drugs than was owed.
It concludes: “He was unconscious so I made sure he was still breathing, and then I took off.”
Belton’s family and friends vehemently deny the claim that he dealt drugs.
Police seized cellphones and combed the teens’ social media records. They found typical teen life: basketball game and practice schedules; pictures of 2012 Hoopfest warm-ups and high-top sneakers; selfies in sports gear; even a syllabus for an entry-level community college communications class.
And they found some troubling posts, including pictures of a teen holding large daggers in a bedroom, and others showing marijuana buds next to cheeseburgers.
When news of the killing broke and police announced they were searching for two black teens, public fury exploded.
False tips and bogus speculation on the Internet came from across the region and even as far away as Texas.
After Spokane police indicated they were looking for Adams-Kinard, a Facebook page popped up with the teen’s picture and several posts antagonizing users. The account was distinct from Adams-Kinard’s personal Facebook page, which investigators also monitored.
Posts on the apparent fake page included threats to hang the teen in Riverfront Park, or crucify him. Other posters advocated that the teen be raped, tortured – even mutilated – in prison.
And some invoked race.
All of those social media posts were reviewed by investigators, downloaded and catalogued as evidence by police.
“Where is (George) Zimmerman when you need him!” wrote one of the less profane users on the page, referring to a jury’s July 2013 acquittal of a Florida neighborhood watchman who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Of the many Crime Check tips received by police, one came from a woman claiming she knew one of the suspects but would not turn him in.
Her post on the Facebook page of Spokane News named a black man who has been not linked to the beating death.
That unsubstantiated claim prompted many tipsters to urge police to look at and act on the information on the website.
Detectives found Glenn’s and Adams-Kinard’s fingerprints in multiple locations on the outside of Belton’s car. Surveillance video captured by area fast-food restaurants and other businesses show the two entering the parking lot where the beating took place around 8:15 p.m. and then running away, but do not record the moments when the alleged crime took place.
Despite thousands of pages of social media posts, phone records and hours of audio and video, however, the evidence released provides no clear reason for Belton’s death.
Minutes after his arrest, a lethargic Adams-Kinard is seen sitting in an interrogation room with two Spokane police detectives. They give him a chance to speak about what happened.
“I’d like to wait and speak to my lawyer,” Adams-Kinard said.
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