Accused child kidnapper told police a muddled story

Published September 24, 2009 4:36 pm
Courts » Defense claims defendant is victim of hate crime.
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David James Bell was badly beaten -- and is now on trial for child kidnapping -- because the parents of two young children misunderstood his innocent intentions.

That is one way to interpret Bell's videotaped statements to South Salt Lake police on July 4, 2008.

Bell said the children, ages 2 and 4, ended up at his next-door home early that morning because they couldn't sleep during their parents' all-night drinking party.

Bell said he told the 2-year-old's mother that the children could "crash" on his couch, but "she was talking at the time and I decided to take them over. I shouldn't have. It was not my place."

In a conflicting version, Bell also told Detective Darren Carr the children went to his home on their own while he remained at the party.

When the parents discovered the children were gone, Bell said, they chased him back to his house, where they beat him and his gay partner, Dan Fair.

Defense attorney Susanne Gustin -- who has called the attack a hate crime -- attempted to cast doubt on Bell's interview. She pointed out inconsistencies, Bell's intoxication and claimed his thinking was muddled from the beating.

Gustin promised the jury Bell will testify about how the children ended up at his home. She also attacked the police investigation as sloppy.

Bell denied during the interview that the children were in his bedroom, as Lulu Latu, the mother of the 2-year-old testified on Tuesday. He claimed he never takes anyone into the bedroom, where on the night in question, his partner was sleeping.

In other testimony, four of Latu's friends and relatives either denied beating Bell and Fair, or refused to answer questions about the attack.

Lisa Aiono, mother of the 4-year-old, admitted running over to Bell's home, but denied harming him. She said her husband, Ricky Peace Sr., participated in the beating, but he testified he does not recall hitting Bell.

Ieti Mageo, the father of the 2-year-old, refused to say whether he tried to enter Bell's home. Mageo's attorney, John West, told 3rd District Judge Paul Maughan he was asserting his Fifth Amendment right against incrimination.

Mageo admitted having 1999 convictions for felony counts of burglary and robbery, for which he went to prison. He also said he was convicted of giving false information to a police officer and attempted theft.

The defense claims the convictions show he was predisposed to react violently.

Bell was dragged from his home and his head was repeatedly smashed against the pavement, among other injuries, Gustin said. Fair also was beaten.

The trial is scheduled to continue all week.

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