The Salt Lake District Attorney's Office has declined to file felony charges against the parents of two children allegedly kidnapped by their next-door neighbor.
During the early morning of July 4, two children, ages 2 and 4, were found in the house of David James "DJ" Bell. Friends and family of Bell say the children were found wandering by themselves and Bell took them in for protection until the parents could be alerted.
The parents of the children, who do not want their identities released to protect their children, say the children were taken without permission. When the mother found the children inside Bell's house, she got into a verbal altercation with Bell that was loud enough to wake up his partner, Dan Fair, who was sleeping in another room.
The mother began hitting Bell before taking her children and leaving, according to Bell's attorney, Roger Kraft. As she was leaving, the mother warned the men they had better lock their doors, he said. Moments later, several adults from the children's house, including their father, broke into Bell's home from several points, breaking through the locked door and some windows, Kraft said.
Bell and Fair were beaten, with Fair getting the worst of it. At one point, the attackers smashed a TV set onto Fair's head. He suffered a broken eye socket and his forehead
was split open badly enough that doctors had to use staples to put it back together.
Bell ran out of the house to escape but was caught in a neighbor's yard and beaten. He suffered two black eyes, and the side of his head and an ear were heavily injured after his head was repeatedly pounded into the pavement and his neck was cut with shards of glass.
After police came, Bell was arrested and later charged in 3rd District Court with two counts of child kidnapping.
South Salt Lake police also filed an aggravated assault and burglary case against the parents to be screened by the DA. Late Wednesday afternoon, the district attorney's office announced it had declined to file felony charges due to "insufficient evidence" but that the case would be referred to the South Salt Lake City Prosecutor's Office to be screened for possible misdemeanor charges.
Because some of the facts in the assault case coincide with the kidnapping charges filed against Bell, the DA declined further comment Wednesday.
The attack has sparked outrage among Bell's family and members of the gay community who are calling the incident a hate crime.
"The family was very upset in the beginning," said Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center. "When your kid has the crap beat out of him and the pictures you see there's a reason to be upset."
After hearing of the DA's decision Wednesday, Larabee said she was happy to see the legal system was running its course.
"From the inception of this incident, we have just wanted law enforcement and the judicial system to take its course and to ferret out the facts of the case," she said. "We're happy that it's proceeding. We're still very concerned about David and his family, as well as the other folks involved in this. This is a very difficult thing."
Prior to the DA's decision to decline charges Wednesday, the mother of the children allegedly kidnapped told the Deseret News she doesn't deny people in her house were responsible for beating the two men but said they were only trying to protect the children. She said she knew Bell was gay but said his sexual orientation had nothing to do with the attack.
"This is not a hate crime," she said.
If the couple who took their children were a man and a woman, the mother said she would have reacted the same way.
The mother even noted she "kind of feels bad" about the extent of Fair's injuries and that he simply "got caught in the crossfire."
"We regret beating them up as badly as we did," she said. "But we don't feel bad because what if it (had turned into) another case of murdered children?"
Contributing: Aaron Falk