Vehicle seen leaving alley near slain principal's home, police say

By Dan Morse
Thursday, April 22, 2010; 3:18 PM

Detectives investigating the murder of D.C. principal Brian Betts are looking for a vehicle seen leaving an alley adjacent to his home about 45 minutes after he was known to still be alive, officials said Thursday.

The vehicle was seen about 12:15 a.m. Thursday driving away from an alley that runs between Betts's home and an Exxon station near Georgia Avenue and Columbia Boulevard, said Capt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery County police spokesman.

"We believe it may be related to the homicide," Starks said.

He declined to offer more details about the vehicle. Detectives have spoken to at least one person who saw it and would like to speak with more, Starks said.

Betts's own car, a Nissan SUV, was taken, and detectives believe that theft was related to the murder. This indicates that more than one person may have been involved.

But Starks said from the beginning of the case, detectives have looked at the possibility that one or more people were involved, and that is still the case.

Betts was alive as of 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, based on a conversation he had at the time with at least one person, police have said. His body was discovered about 7:40 p.m. Thursday.

Starks declined to say if detectives have determined an approximate time of death. Betts was shot at least once, and his clothed body was found inside a bedroom.

Betts's SUV was abandoned in Southeast D.C. on Friday. Detectives are trying to speak with two people a witness said he observed walking away from the vehicle.

An examination of the inside of the SUV showed it to be clean of debris -- no bottles, no trash, no cigarette butts, Starks said.

He urged anyone with information about the vehicle in the alley, Betts's SUV, or the case, to call the department's major crimes unit at 240-773-5070 or CrimeSolvers, which makes callers eligible for a possible reward, at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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