Former Marine Charged in Killing of Indiana Professor After Alleged Sex Encounter

Police: Michael Griffin murdered Prof. Belton after Christmas Day sex encounter.

December 31, 2009, 12:43 PM

Dec. 31, 2009— -- Was a sexual encounter between a well-respected professor and an ex-Marine the start of a new relationship or an assault?

The answer could be behind the brutal stabbing death of Indiana University professor Don Belton. A former Marine and Iraq veteran, 25-year-old Michael J. Griffin, has confessed to killing the 53-year-old man in retaliation for what he said were two sexual assaults on Christmas Day that Belton refused to apologize for.

But according to court documents, a journal found at Belton's house contained notes he wrote in the week prior to Christmas that "he is very happy that an individual by the name of Michael has come into his life."

Griffin has been charged with murder in the Dec. 27 attack that shocked Belton's colleagues at IU Bloomington where he taught English as an assistant professor.

"He was a generous and talented professor who had much potential," Provost Karen Hanson said in a statement on the school's Web site. "We were shocked and saddened by his death."

A candle-light vigil in Belton's honor is planned for Friday on the university's Bloomington campus.

Bloomington Police Lt. David Drake told today that police "really don't know" if the incident on Christmas Day was consensual or not.

When Griffin was arrested as his house the next day, Drake said, he was in possession of a 9mm gun and had his 2-year-old son with him. Drake said police had received a report that Griffin had made comments about wanting just one more night with his son and authorities were concerned he may try to harm himself or the little boy.

Griffin pleaded not guilty during a court appearance Wednesday. He is being held without bond. Drake said Griffin does not have a known record.

According to the probable cause affidavit, police were called to Belton's home on Monday after a colleague found his body. He had been stabbed multiple times in the back and side.

Because it appeared nothing had been taken from the home, officers believed it "to be a crime of anger or passion."

Along with the diary that spoke of Belton's happiness with "Michael," police said they also found a 4 x 6 card by the computer with a phone number, e-mail and directions for someone with the name "Griffin." The address later led investigators to Griffin's home, where he was taken into custody.

Shortly after Belton's body was discovered, police in Batesville, Ind., called Bloomington detectives to tell them a woman, later identified to be Griffin's girlfriend, had called to report that her boyfriend may have been involved with Belton's murder.

Ex-Marine Allegedly Confesses to Killing Professor With 'Peace Keeper' Knife

Once in police custody, Griffin waived his rights and told investigators, according to the probable cause affidavit, that he went to Belton's home on Sunday to confront him about the two sexual encounters, which Griffin described as assaults.

Drake said the sexual incidents allegedly occurred at Griffin's home on Christmas Day during a gathering with friends. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the sexual acts.

The conversation turned into a scuffle and Griffin, according to the affidavit, brandished a knife called a "peace keeper" that he had purchased before deploying to Iraq with the Marine Corps.

"Mr. Griffin states that when he went to confront Mr. Belton about the two sexual assaults, he felt that Mr. Belton was not in any way forgiving and that he did not show or express any type of feeling that what had taken place was a mistake," according to court papers.

Once the argument turned physical, according to the affidavit, Griffin "stabbed him until he quit moving" then left the house and changed clothes in his girlfriend's pickup truck.

Police said he then went about running errands before dumping a white trash bag containing his bloody clothes. According to the affidavit, police searched the dumpster where Griffin claimed to have dumped the clothes, but the trash had already been collected.