The Crime Scene: Second plea deal in Brian Betts case

By Dan Morse
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 1:56 PM

The winding down of the Brian Betts murder case continued in Montgomery County on Tuesday, with a guilty plea in the morning and a sentencing set for the afternoon.

Four men were originally charged with murder in the case, which captured national attention because of Betts' standing as a beloved principal and face of education reform in the District.

One of the defendants has pleaded guilty to murder. A second has pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Prosecutors are trying to work out or finalize plea agreements with the other two.

On Tuesday morning, Sharif Lancaster, 19, pleaded guilty to charges of robbery and use of a handgun during a crime. He faces up to 35 years in prison.

In court, prosecutors said that Lancaster went to Betts's house in April, but did not shoot the principal. Lancaster's fingerprints were found inside Betts's house.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the shooter in the case, Alante Saunders, will be sentenced. He is expected to get 40 years in prison as part of a suspended life sentence.

Police and prosecutors said that on the evening of April 14, Saunders called a sex chat line with the intention of setting up a robbery. He used a phone belonging to Lancaster's girlfriend at the time, according to prosecutors. Saunders exchanged messages with Betts, and pretended to set up a personal meeting with him.

Prosecutors say that Saunders, Lancaster and the two other defendants -- Joel Johnson and Deontra Gray -- went to Betts's house that night. Betts was found shot to death in his upstairs bedroom.


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