A man accused of kidnapping two children from his next-door neighbor's home during a July Fourth celebration was bound over for trial Thursday in 3rd District Court.
David James "DJ" Bell, 30, faces two counts of child kidnapping and one count of burglary stemming from a complicated incident that left him and his partner, Dan Fair, severely beaten. Increased courtroom security kept a watchful on eye on both parties' family and friends who sat on opposite sides of the aisle.
Judge Robert P. Faust determined that Salt Lake County prosecutors presented enough evidence for the case to move forward despite defense attorney Roger Kraft's protest to the contrary.
"There's zero evidence that's put to this court that DJ Bell ever entered that house," he said. "Nobody saw anything."
More than a dozen people were gathered outside the South Salt Lake home of Ieti Mageo and Tlulu Latu late July 3 and early July 4. While the adults drank alcohol and played poker outside, some of their children it wasn't clear how many based on parents' testimony watched movies and slept inside on the living room floor.
Latu testified that when she checked on the children around 6:30 a.m., she found her 4-year-old daughter crying. The girl told her mother she'd had bad dream that "some guy" had taken her sister. It was then, Latu, said noticed her 2-year-old daughter missing. While checking the house, she saw the back door, which she testified is always locked, open.
"It just kind of threw up a red flag for me to head over to the neighbor's house," Latu said.
Once inside Bell's house, Latu testified, she heard her daughter crying. She found the girl and her 4-year-old male cousin in Bell's upstairs bedroom. Latu said she heard Bell say he just wanted to check on the children and that they were "beautiful" children.
"It kind of creeped me out," she said.
On cross examination, Kraft asked Latu why she immediately went to Bell's house.
"Just something told me to," she replied. Pressed for a better explanation, she said "an instinct being a mother."
The children were not harmed.
Neither Latu, her common-law husband or Ricky Peace Sr., and Lisa Aiono, the 4-year-old boy's parents, testified to seeing Bell enter or exit the house.
South Salt Lake Police detective Darren Carr interviewed Bell a couple of hours after Latu called police.
Carr testified that Bell initially told him he saw the children were awake and fussy and took them to his house to sleep on the couch.
"I decided to take them over. I really shouldn't have. It's not my place to take them," Carr said Bell told him.
Later in the same interview, the detective said Bell told a different story, that the kids were tired so he suggested they go over to his house.
Bell did not testify and declined to talk to reporters after the hearing.
Kraft repeatedly tried to ask questions about what happened after Latu found the children in Bell's home, which has received widespread media attention. County prosecutor Angela Micklos, however, constantly objected.
Moments after Latu left, five adults kicked their way into the house where they beat Bell and Fair. Kraft earlier told the Deseret News he believes the children's family jumped to the conclusion that because Bell is gay, he is a pedophile.
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