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House where principal was found dead has dark history

Montgomery County homicide detectives arrived Friday at a 2-story red brick home on Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring. It was a home they'd visited before.

Police on Friday were at the house in the 9300 block of Columbia to investigate the death of owner Brian Betts, 42, a principal at Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson in the District. When Betts failed to appear for work Thursday, colleagues went to his home; they found him dead there, and notified police.

The same home was the site of a 2002 double murder that occurred during a crime spree by a prison parolee who was eventually sentenced to four life terms in prison.

The house in the Woodside area inside the Beltway is at the intersection of busy Georgia Avenue and Columbia Boulevard. It is the first house just off a commercial strip and close to bus stops, local mapping shows.

In 2002, Anthony Kelly, 44, broke into the house wearing a long fake beard and bushy wig, according to trial testimony. He pistol-whipped 9-year-old Erika Smith before shooting her and her father, Greg Russell, 47.

State and county property records show Betts bought the home from a Russell family member in 2003, although several neighbors recall the property being unoccupied for a few years after that.

Kelly crashed through a kitchen window and made his way to the girl's bedroom, testimony showed. The girl screamed for her father, who was on the phone with a friend.

Kelly pistol-whipped Erika and shot her in the back. He shot her father at least six times then grabbed a New Testament with $3 tucked in to its pages and fled.

Kelly's 2002 string of crimes included the rape of a 60-year-old woman whom he spotted walking on a Silver Spring sidewalk. He was a suspect in the killing of a Seattle tourist shot near the Takoma Metro station when she was in town for a pen collector's convention.

-- Mary Pat Flaherty

By Mary Pat Flaherty  |  April 16, 2010; 2:26 PM ET
Categories:  Mary Pat Flaherty , Montgomery , Schools , The District  
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Maybe there are times when a house should be torn down.
There was a case in Conn. a few years ago where two ex-cons entered a house, killed a woman, two children, and severely injured the father. They then set fire to the house. The father survived.

Eventually it was town down, and a garden planted there instead.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | April 16, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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