Lesson from arrests in Betts murder: Protect yourself from Internet hook-up crimes
Three more suspects in the murder of Brian Betts, a respected inner city principal in Washington D.C., were arrested Monday in early morning raids, and Montgomery County police say that Betts may have been targeted through a phone chat line.
Alante Saunders and Sharif Tau Lancaster of Washington, both 18, are now facing first degree murder charges. Lancaster's mother, Artura Williams, was charged with using Betts' stolen credit card at a Giant grocery store in Silver Spring, Md., the day after he was found shot to death in his home.
A third suspect, Deontra Gray, 18, has been charged with one count of first degree murder, one count of armed robbery, and one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery. According to a statement from the Montgomery County police, Tuesday, it was determined that Gray was in Betts' home at the time of the killing.
Additionally, Gray was observed in surveillance images at several businesses where transactions with Mr. Betts' stolen credit cards were made, according to the release.
Investigators say Betts met the young men on a phone sex chatline, where the suspects may have been looking for robbery targets. Betts may have even invited one of the young men to his house the night he was killed, according to police.
This news confirms the worst suspicions that were rife in our community over the Betts murder, and underscores the importance of this alert from the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit:
ALERT! Online Hookups
The Internet offers some great opportunities to meet people in a non-threatening environment, but with that anonymity comes an opportunity for criminals to prey upon vulnerable and/or unsuspecting victims. Crimes such as theft, robbery, assaults (sexual and non-sexual), fraud and identity theft are all possible forms of victimization experienced by people who choose to use the Internet as a place to meet new acquaintances. Here are some very basic ways in which you can minimize your risk of be victimized:
- Stay Sober, Know Your Limits
- Be Aware
- Protect your Identity and Personal Information
- Document the Liaison
- Get a Photo
- Talk on the Phone Before Meeting
- Meet in Public
- Have an Escape Plan
- Don't Take Valuables
- Notify the Police
MPD's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) has been experiencing increased calls regarding individuals who have been victimized after meeting someone on the Internet. To get more details, view an article on the MPD Web site. Contact a member of the GLLU at 1-877-495-5995.
(Photo of suspect Deontra Q. Gray by Montgomery County Police)
Update: Washington Post reporters David Nakamura and Paul Schwartzman discuss the popularity of cybersocializing.