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IU professor's murder called a 'crime of passion'
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IU professor's murder called a 'crime of passion'

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

New details emerged this week in the brutal murder of Indiana University professor Don Belton. Court documents reveal Bloomington, Indiana police believe Belton, 53, was brutally stabbed by Michael Griffin, 25, in a 'crime of passion.'

According to Bloomington police, Griffin has confessed to killing Belton in retaliation for what he said were two sexual assaults on Christmas Day that Belton refused to apologize for.

What Bloomington Police Lt. David Drake says he doesn't know is, was the sexual encounter between the well-respected professor and an ex-Marine the start of a new relationship or an assault?

The probable cause affidavit said a journal found at Belton's house contained notes he wrote in the week prior to Christmas that, "(Belton) is very happy that an individual by the name of Michael has come into his life."

Griffin has been charged with murder in the December 27, 2009 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 website. "We were shocked and saddened by his death."

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 to the home for someone with the name "Griffin." On December 29, the address led investigators to Griffin's home, where he was taken into custody without incident.

During the arrest, Lt. Drake said Griffin was in possession of a 9mm gun and had his 2-year-old son with him. According to the police lieutenant, they had received a report that Griffin had made comments about "wanting just one more night with his son," and authorities were concerned he might try to harm himself or the little boy.

Once in police custody, Griffin waived his rights and told investigators that he went to Belton's home on December 27, 2009, to confront him about the two sexual encounters, which Griffin described as assaults.

Griffin pleaded not guilty during a December 30, 2009, court appearance. He is being held without bond and according to police, has no prior criminal record.

ARGUMENT TURNED PHYSICAL
During police interrogation on December 29, 2009, Griffin said the sexual incidents allegedly occurred at his house on Christmas Day. Griffin had invited Belton to a gathering of friends, according to his confession. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the sexual acts.

Griffin says that when he went to Belton's home that Sunday, the conversation turned into a scuffle and he, according to the affidavit, brandished a knife called a "peace keeper" that he had purchased before deploying to Iraq with the Marine Corps. Griffin states that when he confronted Belton about the two (alleged) sexual assaults, he felt Belton was in no way apologetic 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 Griffin "stabbed him until he quit moving" then left the house and changed clothes in his girlfriend's pickup truck.

Police were called to Belton's home on December 28, 2009, after a colleague found his body. He had been stabbed multiple times in the back and side, according to the probable cause affidavit.

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

Bloomington police say that Griffin told them he went about running errands before dumping a white trash bag containing his bloody clothes. According to the affidavit, police searched the dumpster where Griffin said he dumped the clothes. Investigators were unable to recover those clothes - the trash had already been collected.

Because it appeared that nothing had been taken from Belton's home, officers believe the murder "to be a crime of anger or passion."

CANDLELIGHT VIGIL IN BELTON'S HONOR
IU professors, students and Bloomington community members held a candlelight vigil at the Bloomington Courthouse Square on New Year's Day in Belton's honor. The hundreds of attendees walked in solidarity to mourn the loss, as well as to express their disbelief and anger that Belton's murderer had accused the professor of sexual assault.

"It has been incredibly taxing, emotionally draining and saddening," said D. Rae Greiner, an IU assistant professor of English, who organized the vigil.

Greiner said not only is she dealing with the sudden loss of her friend and colleague, but she has been dealing with inadequate media coverage of his character.

Many other friends and colleagues also said the Belton they knew had yet to surface.

"We want to change the public perception & while they are still paying attention," Greiner said.

Former IU undergraduate Justin Way took Belton's 2008 advanced fiction writing workshop. He says Belton's class students would not read the typical fiction.

"That's a thing about him, he opened up your reading taste to be more eclectic," Way said.

He added that Belton's class was the antithesis of the competitive atmosphere writing could often have. Way said his attitude toward writing changed because of Belton.

"It really is tragic," Way said, reflecting on Belton's murder.

Adjacent to the courthouse square where the vigil took place is Monroe County Jail, where Griffin is incarcerated.

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