On September 22nd, 2009, the trial of D.J. Bell on charges of child kidnapping began. Bell has been charged with two counts of child kidnapping, first-degree felonies punishable by 15 years to life, and one count of second-degree felony burglary. Media stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, the Salt Lake City Weekly HERE and HERE, and KSL Channel 5. KSL news video embedded below:
Review all previous posts on this case HERE, with the most recent post appearing first. Also visit the Injustice801 website set up to advocate on behalf of justice for D.J. Bell and Dan Fair.
What both sides agree upon: On the night of July 3rd and the morning of July 4th, 2008, the two children who were taken, plus seven others, were sleeping in the home next door to Bell's home in South Salt Lake with their parents and other adults partying in the driveway. Bell went over to the party about 1 A.M. and left at about 6 A.M. as the sun was coming up. Soon after, Tapululu Latu, the mother of the two-year-old girl and the aunt of the four-year-old boy, noticed the two missing children, went over to Bell's house and found them there.
Opening statement of the defense: Defense attorney Susanne Gustin says the parents of the allegedly kidnapped children have extensive criminal records, including burglary, robbery, assault on a police officer and giving false information to police. The defense asked the judge to allow the criminal records of the parents to be presented at trial, and apparently some of that information will be allowed. The defense also contends that any statement Bell made to police immediately after the attack is questionable because Bell suffered a severe head injury. The defense also suggested that Tapalulu Latu had a motive to lie, having "manufactured" a kidnapping to avoid having her family being arrested that night. The defense also states that Bell will take the stand and explain why the children were in his home, and asserted that the family members who invaded Bell's home and attacked him and Fair should be facing attempted murder and aggravated burglary counts.
Opening statement of the prosecution: Lead prosecuting attorney Angela Micklos acknowledged that the fathers of the two children in question have criminal records. But she also minimized the relevancy of that fact, noting that most of the convictions are more than 10 years old. The prosecution also intends to play a taped police interview with Bell made the night of the alleged kidnapping and attack, in which Bell says "I took the children. I shouldn't have taken them."
Tapalulu Latu takes the stand: Latu testified this morning she never saw Bell actually enter the home and remove the children, but prosecutors made the case that the kids, ages 2 and 4, could not have left the home without an adult's help to open locked doors. Latu also testified that before she entered Bell's bedroom she heard him say, "You kids are beautiful. I want to be sure you're OK." She says she burst into the room, saw Dan Fair, DJ's partner, on the bed, had an altercation with DJ in which she slapped him, and left the room, saying "he should lock his doors because when I walk out with my kids I don't know what my family will do."
Analysis: What may emerge is that Tapalulu Latu may have had a LOT to do with how her family reacted. We may find she was a major catalyst in the gang-style mob assault upon Bell and Fair. I could just imagine her saying after she returned with the kids, "I found our kids in the bedroom with those fucking faggots", and, hearing that, a bunch of tanked up male family members immediately lost their sense of reason in a sea of alcohol-induced "liquid courage", chimped out and sought revenge on the spot, believing they were defending the family's honor. The fact that the children were safely returned never entered their mind.
The problem is that when you live in an organized community with police service, the law imposes upon you the duty of restraint, unless life or property are in immediate danger. Thus the correct response would have been for the family to immediately call the police, have the children checked for signs of assault, and then prefer charges legally if warranted.