Demetruis Glenn, the second of two teenagers accused of beating World War II veteran Delbert “Shorty” Belton to death in 2013, pleaded guilty to murder Monday morning, just hours before his trial was set to start.
Prosecutors will recommend Glenn be imprisoned for 16 years.
Glenn’s attorney said he was confident he could have proven that the 17-year-old did not strike Belton, who died in August 2013 after fighting back against his attackers while sitting in his car parked at the Eagles Lodge. But the teen didn’t want to risk a guilty verdict and longer prison sentence.
The other teen involved in killing Belton, 17-year-old Kenan Adams-Kinard, pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“I respect my client’s decision and I can see why he made it,” said Glenn’s attorney, Christian Phelps. “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 88-year-old Belton bleeding in his car.
Flom 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 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,” he said. “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.”
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 was glad to avoid a trial and the publicity that would come with it.
“It’s better than nothing, and hopefully it’ll wake him up,” she said of the proposed sentence.
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 murder drew national attention as much for Belton’s status as a war veteran as for the racial overtones: The two teens accused of attacking and robbing him as he sat in his parked car outside the Eagles Lodge in north Spokane are black; Belton was white. Spokane police have repeatedly said the murder was not racially motivated.
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