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January 15, 2010


Former Marine held in Indiana professor’s death

Bloomington, Ind.--A leading academic in the fields of African American and LGBT studies was murdered on December 27, and a 25-year-old Iraq War veteran is in custody for the crime.

Don Belton, 53, was stabbed to death on December 27. An assistant professor of English at Indiana University, Belton edited the anthology Speak My Name: Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream and wrote the novel Almost Midnight.

He also wrote for Newsweek and the Advocate.

Police were called to Belton’s home on December 28 when one of his colleagues found his body.

His journal led investigators to Michael J. Griffin, 25, a former Marine.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the journal mentioned “in the week prior to Christmas, 2009, that he is very happy than an individual by the name of Michael has come into his life. Additionally an item taken as evidence from the scene includes a 4 x 6 card that had been lying by the computer keyboard which provided a phone number, an email, and directions for an individual by the name of Griffin . . .”

In addition to the information found at Belton’s house, Griffin’s girlfriend called the Batesville, Indiana police department, telling them she believed her boyfriend was involved in Belton’s killing.

She also knew too much, and too quickly, for her information to have come from news reports about the death.

Griffin was arrested, and waived his right to remain silent, confessing that he had stabbed Belton “until he quit moving.”

Griffin told police that Belton had sexually assaulted him twice on the evening of Christmas, and when he went to confront Belton two days later, “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,” the affidavit reads.

He left the house and changed into clean clothes, putting his bloody garments in a garbage bag and disposing of them in a trash container. When police checked it after arresting Griffin, the bin had already been picked up.

Griffin is being held without bond on a charge of aggravated murder.

"Assistant Professor Don Belton was an important African-American writer specializing in fiction and nonfiction who began teaching at IU Bloomington in fall 2008," Provost Karen Hanson said in a release on Indiana University’s website. "He was a generous and talented professor who had much potential. We were shocked and saddened by his death."

Jonathan Elmer, chair of the Department of English at Indiana University, added, "Don Belton's friends, colleagues and students in the English Department are shocked and terribly saddened by the news of his death. His great talents as a writer, his extraordinary generosity to his students, and his warmth of personality were gifts to us all. We will miss him terribly."




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