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Slain D.C. principal's home in Montgomery is site of unrelated '02 double murder

By Mary Pat Flaherty
Saturday, April 17, 2010; A10

On Friday, a two-story red brick house in the 9300 block of Columbia Boulevard was at the center of a homicide investigation after middle school principal Brian Betts was found shot to death inside his Silver Spring home. But it wasn't the first time police had been called to a deadly scene at the home.

The house was the site of a double murder in 2002 when a prison parolee on a crime spree broke through a kitchen window and shot a 9-year-old girl and her father. A year after those killings, Betts bought the home from the estate. On Friday, he was found shot to death in what police are calling a homicide.

"This is probably a first for us," said Montgomery County police spokeswoman Melanie Brenner, who could not recall another set of unrelated killings in the same house.

Betts's body was found Thursday in a killing that police continue to investigate but that they said Friday did not appear to be random. Betts, 42, a much-lauded principal, has led Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson in Northwest Washington since 2008.

Betts learned the grim history of his 1,400-square-foot home only after moving in, his sister Jennifer Altomare said Friday. At first, it bothered him, then he settled in, she said. "He loved that house," Altomare said.

Eight years ago, Anthony Kelly, 44, broke into the house and made his way to the bedroom of 9-year-old Erika Smith. Court testimony showed that he pistol-whipped her and shot her in the back as she screamed for her father, Greg Russell, 47. Kelly shot him at least six times. Kelly was sentenced to four life terms for a spree that also included the rape of a 60-year-old woman.

Dan Kelly, who lived beside Betts, said Friday that once Betts learned about the slayings, "we talked about what happened." Later, he said, Betts invited friends over for "a sort of blessing of the house."

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