How does a daughter tell a judge what sentence to impose on the man who stabbed and cut her 95-year-old father more than 50 times, stole his credit cards and went on a four-day drug binge?
“He deserved to die peacefully in old age,” she said of her dad, Dan Belvin, “not brutally at the hands of Eric Dyson.”
The daughter made her comments in a letter submitted to Montgomery County Circuit Judge Steven Salant. And on Thursday, Salant sentenced Dyson, who is 62, to 47½ years in prison. Dyson could become eligible for parole if he lives into his mid-80s.
“Such a heinous crime,” Salant said.
It occurred in February 2015. At the time, Dyson — a career criminal with longtime drug and alcohol addiction — was living in his father’s apartment at the Randolph Village senior complex in the Colesville area, about 10 miles north of Washington. He befriended a man down the hall, Belvin, a former naval officer who weighed just 128 pounds.
Belvin allowed Dyson to use his car but grew tired of him doing so and asked for the keys back. Dyson was upset over the demand, and also wanted money for drugs, according to prosecutors.
“This was a killing of rage,” Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Fenton said Thursday. “This was a killing that was motivated by one thing only, which is greed.”
The killing of a man that old was unusual: In 2014, there were eight slayings of victims 95 or older, according to information kept by the Murder Accountability Project, which compiles statistics from the FBI and other sources. Over the previous 20 years, there was an average of about five such murders annually, according to the group.
In court Thursday, and in earlier proceedings, prosecutors presented a detailed account of the time leading up to the murder, dating back several years to when Belvin and his wife of 70 years, Jane, lived in a home in Silver Spring. Jane died in 2012. Belvin stayed in the home with his dog, Sunny.
Two years later, in 2014, Belvin and his daughter, Sylvia Bowden, decided to sell the home.
“I must now live with the knowledge that my actions put dad in harm’s way,” Bowden wrote in her letter to the judge. “I will regret these decisions the rest of my life.”
Belvin and Sunny moved into Apartment 206B. He enjoyed walking his dog around the grounds until Sunny died.
Meanwhile, Dyson moved in to his father’s unit, 219B. He befriended Belvin in part by offering to fix Belvin’s 2000 Dodge Intrepid. Belvin began letting Dyson use the car. But according to evidence later found in Belvin’s apartment, Belvin grew frustrated.
“Get car keys back!!!! This PM!!!” he wrote in a note to himself.
In court filings, prosecutors said that when Belvin asked Dyson to return the keys, Dyson grew angry — a rage made worse by Belvin’s refusal to give him money. Dyson stabbed and cut Belvin repeatedly as the older man tried to defend himself. “I just kept swinging,” Dyson would later tell detectives.
He left the apartment and drove off in the car. Belvin’s body was discovered four days later when a manager came to check on him.
In court Thursday, William Belvin, a nephew of the victim, asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence.
“My request is made not made of malice or revenge,” William Belvin said, “rather it is to seek the court’s protection. . . . The court can, in its sentencing of Mr. Dyson, prevent this cunning predator and career criminal from ever potentially injuring and even killing others again.”
After finishing, Belvin turned to his right to face Dyson for several seconds. But Dyson, seated at a table facing the judge, never turned to meet his gaze.
Bowden, who was a foster daughter of Belvin’s, did not speak in court on Thursday. She sat in the courtroom gallery, tears in her eyes, at one point clutching photographs of her dad.
“I’d just like to say a few words to Sylvia Bowden,” Salant, the judge, said from the bench. “There was no way that anyone could ever have imagined that Mr. Belvin, in Randolph Village, would have been the victim of such a heinous crime. In fact, your decision to put him there was a good one.
“By all accounts he was pretty happy there, particularly while his dog was around. And the people who were there cared for him and liked him and knew him. And when you have an elderly relative, that’s the best place for them to be. So, I want you to know [that] this should not be a regret on your part. You did the best for him, and there’s no way that you could have fathomed that anything like this would happen.”
In May, at Dyson’s trial, jurors saw surveillance video showing the defendant using Belvin’s ATM card. Jurors also heard from Dyson’s acquaintances, including a woman who said she was with him over a weekend smoking crack he purchased.
In finding Dyson guilty of second-degree murder, jurors determined the killing was deliberate and intentional. They did not find him guilty of the more serous charge of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation. They also found him guilty of theft and credit-card misuse counts.
In court papers, prosecutors said that Dyson faced a maximum of 74 years in prison. Under Salant’s calculations, which held that two of the credit card charges should be merged, the maximum was 56½ years.
Among the letters Salant received was one from Belvin’s great-great-niece, now an eighth-grader. She recalled the last time she saw her uncle — at McDonald’s, where he wanted to be taken for his 95th birthday. “He told wonderful stories,” she wrote.
Dyson did not testify at his trial. He also did not speak Thursday, an option many defendants choose during sentencing because they don’t want to say anything that could be used against them during an appeal. One of Dyson’s attorneys, Jennifer Dayton, spoke about his impoverished, troubled and traumatic childhood, during which he was physically abused.
From the time Dyson was a young adult, he was in and out of jail on drug charges. Dyson has two daughters, one of whom was murdered in Washington, a crime that remains unsolved. And he has long dealt with untreated mental illness, Dayton said.
Since being locked up for the murder last year, though, Dyson has worked to improve himself. He has tried to help younger inmates — urging them to stay out of trouble — that a group of them wrote a letter on his behalf ahead of the sentencing.
“When Eric Dyson is clean and sober and mentally healthy, he is a person who cares about other people,” Dayton said.
Steven Rich contributed to this report.