Three Homicides Have Taken Place in House for Sale in Maryland

PHOTO: The real estate listing for the home at 9337 Columbia Blvd, Silver Spring, MD, as seen on Zillow.com.
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It has three bedrooms, 2.5 baths and is in a nice neighborhood in Silver Spring, Md. The asking price: $515,000. There's just one catch -- three people were murdered there.

The price was reduced on the single-family home by $20,000 earlier this month, according to Zillow.com.

Brian Betts, 42, the principal at Shaw Middle School in Washington, D.C., was murdered in this home on April 15, 2010.

Alante Saunders, a teenager who encountered Betts in an online gay chat room and arranged to meet him at his home, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the case, while three other teenagers pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

The site had also been the scene of a double murder in 2002 when a parolee, Anthony Kelly, broke in and pistol-whipped and shot a 9-year-old girl, Erika Smith, then shot her father, Greg Russell, at least six times. Kelly is in prison on a life sentence.

Rene Sandler, an attorney for Betts' family, said the principal had no idea of the house's bloody history when he bought it in 2003. "Three days after Brian settled on the property, he learned from a neighbor what happened and tried to rescind the deal," she said.

That wasn't possible — in Maryland, realtors have no legal obligation to reveal if a crime has occurred in a house for sale. So Betts lived with the property's history.

The law on disclosure varies from state to state, and Lotus Lou, a spokeswoman for the California Association of Realtors, said that in California sellers are obliged to disclose "anything that's known to be material" when they put a property up for sale. A house with a notorious history can still sell, Lou said. "If it's a bargain price, maybe (buyers) can overlook it."

After his death, Betts' family wanted to bulldoze the house and establish a memorial there, Sandler said. "If they had their way, no one would live in it," she said.

But the house now belongs to Fannie Mae and it is up for sale. "I don't believe honestly there's been much action," Sandler said.

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