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Peaceoholics co-founder Ron Moten is denying allegations that his nonprofit group harbored three youths now suspected of murdering middle school principal Brian Betts.
The three teens—Sharif Lancaster, Deontra Gray, and Alante Saunders—had attended a Maryland retreat sponsored by Moten’s organization, which aims to turn at-risk youths away from violence.
At the time of the retreat, which took place weeks before Betts’ April 15 murder, the three suspects were wanted by police on a separate matter—having absconding from a juvenile rehabilitation center.
Their participation in the Peaceoholics’ event has left the beleaguered organization vulnerable to yet more criticism.
But Moten says the group had no idea the youths were on the run. “If we would have known, we would have had them turn themselves in,” he says.
They did, however, later get word that something bad had happened with one of the three, some time after Betts’ murder.
Moten says a relative of one the suspectscalled up the group saying he was looking for a way to turn himself in for a crime. He says police got to the kid first.
Though he won’t say which one, Moten suggests the nonprofit had extensive experience with one of the murder suspects for at least six months prior to the retreat and phone call. “We stayed on top of him,” Moten says. The youth eventually left the program, he adds, but maintained a relationship with his former case worker.