Man gets 8-15 years in 1975 slayings of brothers

AP News
Posted: May 30, 2014 11:49 AM

DETROIT (AP) — A former Michigan man who lived for years under at least one alias after the brutal 1975 beating and stabbing deaths of two Detroit-area brothers was sentenced Friday to eight years to 15 years in prison.

David Fowler, 57, sat quietly in a wheelchair, dressed in drab green prison garb and orange shoes, as Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt announced he would stick to the sentencing agreement attached to Fowler's earlier no-contest plea to manslaughter.

A brother, daughter and niece of his victims, Michael and Jeffrey Belt, had wanted more prison time for Fowler.

Michael Belt, 34, and his 18-year-old brother, Jeffrey, were beaten with a board and stabbed during a robbery at Michael Belt's home in Livonia, west of Detroit. Two other men were charged and convicted in the slayings, but Fowler fled Michigan and spent 37 years on the run.

He was extradited from Georgia in February 2012 after DNA tests linked him to the slayings. Fowler had been in prison under an alias and has previous convictions for shoplifting, receiving stolen property and escape.

When asked Friday by Skutt if he had anything to say before being sentenced, Fowler replied: "I'll just stand on the sentence agreement."

A first-degree murder charge in the 1975 slayings was dismissed when the no-contest plea was made earlier this month. A no-contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing.

Defense attorney Leon Weiss told the court that the "agreement reached was fair and just" and reflected the evidence available after more than three decades.

Prosecutors and police had trouble locating witnesses and getting reluctant witnesses to come forward, Skutt said.

"A lot of people's memories and information that was fresh in 1975 was not there," the judge said.

But Julie Blackwood, a niece of the brothers, told the judge in a statement that once released, Fowler will "only cause more pain."

"It sickens me that this man will only spend eight to 15 years in prison for the murder of two men," said Blackwood, who was aged 2 at the time of the slayings.