The second of two teenagers linked to the 2013 beating death of World War II veteran Delbert “Shorty” Belton pleaded guilty this morning to murder.
Demetruis Glenn, 17, took the plea deal just hours before jury selection was to begin for his trial in Spokane County Superior Court. A robbery charge against him was dropped in exchange for the plea.
Glenn also faced a third charge, conspiracy to commit robbery, which was dropped due to lack of evidence.
Prosecutors will recommend a prison term of 16 years during a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 19. That’s less than the 20 years that the other teen, 17-year-old Kenan Adams-Kinard, is serving.
Glenn’s attorney, Christian Phelps, said he wanted to go to trial and was confident he would have been able to prove Glenn did not participate in the beating that killed Belton.
“I respect my client’s decision and I can see why he made it,” Phelps said. “Had we gone to trial and all the evidence was put out in front of a jury I think the public would have been more satisfied with whatever resolution was attained.”
Phelps said the evidence against Glenn placed him at the scene of the crime, but did not implicate Glenn in assaulting Belton.
Belton’s friend, Natalie Flom, found him bleeding in his car and told police she saw two black teenagers fleeing the scene, according to court documents. Surveillance footage from near the crime scene showed Glenn and Adams-Kinard shortly after the murder, wearing the clothes Flom described.
Police also found several of Glenn’s fingerprints inside Belton’s car.
Glenn turned himself in to police after he was identified as a suspect in the murder. Police arrested Adams-Kinard several days after the beating and found a letter in the house he’d been staying at which detailed Adams-Kinard’s involvement in the murder.
Phelps said that letter and other statements made by Adams-Kinard never suggested Glenn was involved in assaulting Belton.
“The public largely doesn’t know what the actual facts were and I can see with the passion and emotion how they would object to any sentence that wasn’t extremely lengthy for either of these boys,” Phelps said.
That claim carried little weight for Bobbie Belton, Belton’s daughter-in-law.
“He was there. He could’ve stopped it if he wanted to. He’s just as guilty because he was there,” she said.
She said she thought the plea deal was better than a trial.
“It’s better than nothing and hopefully it’ll wake him up,” she said.
But other family members disagreed. Steve Belton, one of Belton’s nephews, said many family members felt a 16 year sentence was far too lenient.
“Sixteen years is not justice for Uncle Delbert,” he said. He also said the teens needed to recant the claim that Belton was dealing crack, which was made in the letter attributed to Adams-Kinard.
The 2013 murder drew national attention as much for Belton’s status as a war veteran as for the racial overtones: The two teens suspected of attacking and robbing him as he sat in his parked car outside the Eagles Lodge in north Spokane are black; Belton, who later died from the beating, is white. Spokane police have repeatedly said the murder was not racially motivated.
The beating occurred on Aug. 21, 2013, and Belton died the following day from injuries suffered in the attack.
Although the assailants are teenagers, both were charged as adults in the violent crime.
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