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Posted at 6:15 PM ET, 11/30/2010

3rd suspect pleads in Betts slaying

By Dan Morse

The third of four suspects originally charged in the slaying of Principal Brian K. Betts pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Joel Johnson, 19, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, punishable by up to five years in prison, according to a court hearing Tuesday.

Betts, well known for his work with students and a leading face of education reform, was found shot in his home in April. As detectives built their case, they learned that Alante Saunders had called a sex chat line, linked up with Betts and set up a meeting for the purpose of robbing him, according to authorities. He arrived at Betts's house in Silver Spring with three others and went inside. He shot Betts in an upstairs bedroom.

Johnson went inside the home, and was there when Betts was shot, according to prosecutors.

Johnson's attorney, Philip Armstrong, said in court Tuesday that his client ended up with the three others that night only because he needed a ride to a girl's house. After waiting outside Betts's house, he went in to check on Saunders.

He went "to find out what the holdup was, and was unfortunately witness to a pretty horrific scene," Armstrong said. "He cleared out of there quick."

Within two hours of the shooting, surveillance cameras caught images of Johnson and others at a PB gas station where at least one of Betts's stolen credit cards was used, prosecutors said.

By Dan Morse  | November 30, 2010; 6:15 PM ET
 
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