The atmosphere in the courtroom was somber as Demetruis Glenn, the second teenager accused of killing World War II veteran Delbert “Shortly” Belton, was sentenced to 16 years in jail Thursday.
Glenn, 17, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on March 2. His sentencing draws to a close a case that sparked community outrage, garnered national attention and at times led to heated exchanges in court.
Glenn and his co-defendant, Kenan Adams-Kinard, 17, were accused of severely beating Belton, 88, during a strong-arm robbery as Belton sat in his parked car at the Eagles Lodge in August 2013. Belton later died from his injuries.
Adams-Kinard pleaded guilty earlier this year and was sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Family and friends of the slain veteran spoke about the pain Shorty’s death caused in their community, but they left court with one small victory. Glenn’s attorney Christian Phelps said the claim that Belton dealt crack, made in a letter attributed to Adams-Kinard, was not true and was never part of Glenn’s defense.
“Today, we can put that to rest. It’s on the record now,” said Steve Belton, Belton’s nephew.
John Erp, a service officer for Disabled American Veterans in eastern Washington, spoke about Belton’s military service, where he survived the Battle of Okinawa - one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
“What Shorty did not survive was a brutal beating by attackers who stole his life, then tried to besmirch his character,” Erp said. He said the attackers deserved to be “taken off the very streets that Shorty Belton fought so hard to keep free.”
Martha Denison, a friend of Belton’s, addressed Glenn directly.
“I say a prayer for you and your friend every night: that I can get over it and you can get over it,” she said, fighting back tears.
Glenn said only, “No thank you, ma’am,” when asked if he would like to speak. Before the hearing, he wrote a letter to the court saying one of the reasons he took the plea deal was so that the Belton family would not have to sit through a trial.
Steve Belton said though he wanted to see Glenn go to trial, he was glad to have some closure in the case.
“It’s not what we hoped for. I think the police and the prosecutors are working with one hand ties behind their back, but they’ve done their job,” he said, adding that the family is immensely grateful to law enforcement for their work on the case.
Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese followed a joint recommendation for the 16 year sentence, though the lower end of the standard sentencing range for first-degree murder is 20 years.
Attorneys for both sides said the recommendation took into account the fact that Glenn turned himself in to police.
Phelps also said physical evidence suggested Glenn was present at the scene of the murder, but did not participate in the beating that killed Belton.
“Your accountability in this case is a little less than Mr. Kinard’s,” Plese said before handing down the sentence.
Glenn was also ordered to pay about $6,000 in fines and restitution.
After the sentencing, Erp said he’s gotten regular calls from veterans asking about Belton’s case.
“When one of us dies, a little bit of all of us dies,” he said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter