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Crime and Prejudice

An accused kidnapper’s only offense was being gay, say supporters.

By Ted McDonough
Posted // July 30,2008 - It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. A child is kidnapped from home by a neighbor. It happened with a tragic end in South Salt Lake in April when 7-year-old Hser Nay Moo was found murdered in a neighbor’s basement.n

July 4 seemed like a repeat. A South Salt Lake woman alleges her 2-year-old daughter and a cousin’s 4-year-old son were snatched from her home by the next-door neighbor. Only this time, she quickly found the children and the would-be kidnapper was locked up.

But the story isn’t so simple. The children were gone about 10 minutes and found in circumstances open to explanations other than a foiled kidnapping plot. Most disturbing to some in Salt Lake Valley’s gay community was the aftermath. The alleged kidnapper and his partner—a gay couple—were severely beaten by their neighbors in an attack that sent both to the hospital and left the walls of their home splattered with blood. Although police responded, no one was arrested for the attacks. At City Weekly’s press deadline, more than three weeks later, no one had been charged in the beatings.

The only official action so far has been the arrest of D.J. Bell, a well-known drag queen awaiting trial on two counts of child kidnapping and one count of burglary.

Bell’s case has riveted the attention of many in the valley’s gay community who packed his July 22 hearing at 3rd District Court sporting rainbow ribbons. Friends can’t believe Bell, described as gentle and generous, is a kidnapper. For the past seven years Bell, performing under the stage name “Lola,” has worked with several organizations raising money for causes from cancer to rape victims.

A housemate of Bell’s says the two allegedly kidnapped children simply wandered over to Bell’s house early in the morning, weary of a family party that, by dawn, had run for six hours. Bell’s friends worry that old prejudices about gays may be getting in the way of justice.

“If the mother had gone to that house and found D.J. with his wife, this would not have happened,” says Roger Kraft, Bell’s attorney. “But they jumped to the conclusion [that], since he’s gay, he must also be a child molester.”

Police and the family of the allegedly kidnapped children deny antigay bias clouds their vision. Police spokesman Gary Keller points out the South Salt Lake Police Department has a longstanding relationship with the Utah Pride Center. He says officers investigated the beatings and forwarded information to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office. Prosecutors are reviewing possible assault charges against at least two people.

At a July 22 court hearing, Kraft told the judge he had never been more certain of a client’s innocence, calling police work that led to Bell’s arrest “a very, very narrow, one-sided investigation.” It simply doesn’t make sense, he says, that a kidnapper would snatch children from a home filled with partying adults, then take the children next door to a home where four other adults were present. “This was a hate crime,” he says.

On July 4, at 6:52 a.m., South Salt Lake Police responded to several 911 calls of a “fight in progress” on 400 East and approximately 2900 South. What happened before the fight depends on who is telling the story.

Lulu Latu, the mother of the allegedly kidnapped 2-year-old, says her family was enjoying a traditional late-night July 3 party. The children stayed inside while the adults partied in the front driveway. Bell, a neighbor to whom she had waved but never met, wandered over and “hung out” with the adults.

Around 6 a.m. Latu says she went inside to check on the children, and found two missing. Something another child said led her to believe the children were at Bell’s home. She entered through Bell’s kitchen and followed the sound of crying to an upstairs bedroom where she found the two children standing in the doorway with Bell.

Latu says there is no way the children could have got there without an adult taking them. The interior doors at her home were locked, she says, and the children couldn’t have come out the front without being noticed by partygoers. “My children don’t wander from the house,” she says.

Returning home with the children, Latu says, “I was frantic, yelling, screaming.” She told partygoers the neighbor had taken the children, “and everyone just went crazy.”

Those on the other side of the chain-link fence that separates the homes tell a different story.

Chris Swan, a housemate of Bell’s, has gathered stories from five people who were at Bell’s home that morning. He says they heard a knock on the door and Bell answering, saying something like, “It’s OK; I’ll go find your mommy.”

“The next thing they heard is the mother from next door in the house screaming,” Swan says. As she left with the children, he says, the mother threatened the household: “You just wait until my family hears … You better lock your doors and windows.”

Five to 10 minutes later, about five men broke into Bell’s house from three sides, according to Swan and Bell’s attorney. A hand punched through a front window, reaching around to unlock the door. The back door was kicked off its hinges.

Swan says Bell’s partner, a large man, went to the front room to face attackers, but was hit from behind with a television. He ended up with a concussion and staples closing gashes in his head and arm. A broken eye socket required later surgery.

Attackers caught Bell outside on the carport, Kraft says. They sliced his throat with shards of glass and tried to cut off a toe, before pulling him by his long hair and bashing his head on the concrete. Bell has lost hearing in his right ear.

The next morning, “there was blood everywhere,” Swan says.

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 20,2010 at 00:49

I think they should have been parenting and not partying! How do expect to protect your vunerable most valued assetts when your too involved with personal self gratifying behavior? The neighbor was lclearly violated of his civil rights. Convicted before criminal charges where even verified> Hate Crime is disgusting!.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // September 4,2008 at 11:30 Salt Lake police Thursday asked for the public’s help in finding a man investigators say attacked another man, breaking his eye socket, apparently because he was gay.nThe incident, which is being labeled by police as a potential hate crime, happened Aug. 9, but details weren’t released by police until Thursday.nnFour people, including the victim, were partying on Churchill Drive. The location overlooks the valley and is a common meeting spot for teenagers and young adults, said Salt Lake police spokeswoman Lara Jones. The victim did not know his assailant prior to that meeting, she said.nnEveryone in the group was friendly at first, and the victim even had his picture taken with the others, Jones said. After the picture, the assailant, who is approximately 20, asked the victim if he was gay. When he stated he was, the man and several others hit the victim several times, breaking his orbital bone, Jones said.nnThe victim has since had to undergo reconstructive surgery.nnThe only description of the assailants police had Thursday was they were all Polynesian.nnThe attack has several similarities to an attack in South Salt Lake on July 4. In that incident, David DJ Bell and his partner, Dan Fair, suffered a severe beating at the hands of a Polynesian family who believed Bell had kidnapped two of their young children. Bell was charged with kidnapping and is currently awaiting trial. Fair, who had his eye socket broken and has undergone several surgeries, was not arrested.nnFair called the attack a hate crime. The family of the children claimed they were trying to protect their children and the attack had nothing to do with sexual orientation. The Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office has declined to file felony charges against the family.nnDespite the apparent similarities, Jones said the incidents were quite different in context.nnAt the heart (of the Salt Lake beating) is the question, ’Was sexual preference the motivation for the violence?’nnJones said she could not comment on cases in another jurisdiction.nnAnyone with information on the Salt Lake beating can call police at 799-3000.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 22,2008 at 07:12 I don’t see Lulu Latu on there anywhere, or any long name that could be her...how do you know who ther others listed are and whether or not they are her family? oh yeah, and for others who decide to go look up names, make sure you look in the judgement colum for the not guiltys. Thanks!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 21,2008 at 03:52 Checking www.utahsright.com it looks like most of the Latu family has spent time behind bars including the women. Not much of a surprise.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 8,2008 at 15:07 Oh yes, THANK YOU MS. D.A., unfortunately in this case I’m certain D.A. stands for Dumb Ass. The charges against those that beat the living hell out of David and Dan won’t be pressed due to insufficient evidence. Would their death certificates have been sufficient?! What more evidence do you have to have other than taking a good look at the pictures (or hey, why not check out the medical records) of David and Dan? Do we not get that both were almost killed? How is THAT not evidence? The neighbor admitted her husband went into the house and I doubt it was for a hug. Perhaps the house was possessed and did it to them itself? I think not!! Oh wait, I understand now, the sufficient evidence you need are a pair of glasses so you can actually see what’s right in front of you as it’s obvious to the rest of the public that an assault has taken place. Oh sorry, I could be way off base, glasses may be insufficient as well and an anal probe would be more appropriate because obviously Ms. Dumb Ass, that’s exactly where you’ll find your head. Isn’t it nice we have you to represent us.....Hmm, I wonder how you would feel to have the same situation so poorly handled by the police and the D.A. when it’s your friend, family, etc. if it were I’m certain you would be more vigilant in your review of evidence. Oh, and for those who weren’t at David’s recent court appearance the mother said she found the kids sleeping on the couch at David’s and that is her final statement; how many times is her story going to change? An innocent man is sitting in jail while the guilty get to roam the street. People have brought up that David had a D.U.I. in the past but why won’t anyone mention that our gentle, tender, Mr. Leti Mageo whom willingly chose to commit this horrific attack has a past of his own (oh please, don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself at www.utahsright.com type in just the last name of Mageo and oh lookie there, he has a criminal history too). This is all a bunch of crap and I pray Mr. David James Bell has all charges against him dropped and when he walks out of the courthouse that he not only turns the other cheek but turns them both so you can take a good look at his other two and Kiss His Ass!!!! He is innocent!!!!!

 

 
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