April 21st, 2010
03:15 PM ET

Did slain principal know his killer?

Program Note: Don't miss Randi Kaye's report on the case tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/19/bettspic.jpg width=292 height=320]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

A popular District of Columbia school principal who was found shot to death in his home may have been targeted by his killer, authorities said. “The circumstances surrounding his death generally have led investigators to believe this was not a random crime,” Captain Paul Starks of the Montgomery County Police Department told CNN. “There was no ransack, the front door was closed but unlocked, there was no forced entry in the home.”

The body of Brian Betts, 42, was discovered last Friday in his house last Thursday in Silver Spring, Maryland. The 42-year-old, who was a principal at Shaw Middle School, did not show up for work that morning, officials said.

Capt. Sparks said Betts was alive up to at least 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night. On Friday, two unidentified men were seen exiting an SUV owned by Betts on a District of Columbia street.

Sparks said detectives continue to canvass Betts’ neighborhood for information on the victim’s whereabouts on April 14. “Our focus now is trying to get a timeline for that Wednesday evening, what he was doing, who he may have been with,” said Sparks. “We continue to ask for help throughout the community and communities. People may have information that they may not believe is helpful, but give it to us and let us decide.”

“This is a significant crime..it’s very important to us. Somebody died and was killed in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The death of Betts, who was a popular educator among faculty and students, has shaken the school community. “He was an inspirational leader for the teachers and the students, and that leadership was bringing results,” said a statement by the District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. “He knew what the children under his care were capable of, and he was determined to show them how to get there. Brian Betts’ death is an incredible loss of a young and dedicated school leader.”

Past and current students, as well as employee members have posted online their thoughts and memories of the murdered principal.

“Mr. Betts was one of those teachers you could never forget,” wrote one former student. “Yes, he was a teacher, a figure of authority, but he felt more like an older brother, and made us feel comfortable about coming to him about almost anything….Our area has lost an amazing person.”

Anyone with information on the death of Brian Betts is asked to contact the Montgomery County Police at 240-773-5070.

For more crime coverage go to cnn.com/crime.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
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