A Jackson County man charged with killing a 5-year-old boy told police he thought the boy’s stepfather had stolen $200 from him, a state police detective testified Monday.
Lonnie Belt, 41, told police his plan was to keep the boy and his mother at his house until he could confront the stepfather over the suspected theft, state police detective Charles Brandenburg testified Monday.
However, Belt instead allegedly attacked the mother, Jessica Durham, and shoved her over a cliff during a struggle, then killed her son, James Spoonamore, by hitting him in the head with a metal pipe.
Brandenburg said he didn’t know why Belt changed his plans and assaulted Durham. But Belt indicated to police that he killed James because the boy had witnessed the assault on his mother, Brandenburg testified.
The stepfather, David Durham, has denied taking any money from Belt.
District Judge Allen B. Roberts ruled after hearing Brandenburg’s testimony that there was probable cause to think that Belt committed the crimes and sent the charges to the grand jury for review and possible indictment.
The attack on Jessica Durham and James occurred Sept. 8. Belt’s brother had taken David Durham to Richmond to for an appointment at a drug-treatment clinic.
Jessica Durham and James were home alone at the small mobile home where the three lived in rural Jackson County.
Jessica Durham told police that Belt came to her house and told her that her husband was passed out at his house. Belt lived with his brother about half a mile from the Durhams.
Belt told police he didn’t think James would be at home, Brandeburg said.
He was, however, James went with his mother to Belt’s house, and James stayed in the car.
Durham told police that Belt told her that her husband was in a bedroom at the end of a hall. When she went to look, Belt hit her in the head from behind, then tried to choke her, Brandenburg said.
Durhampleaded with Belt to stop.
Belt then tied her hands behind her with a rope, blindfolded her and took her back to the car, according to Durham’s account to Brandenburg.
She could hear her son in the back seat saying, “Mommy, you’re bleeding,” Brandenburg testified.
Belt drove around for a while, ending up at a secluded spot about five miles from his house. He got Durham out of the car and told her to sit on the ground so he could bandage her head, but then he hit her again, she told police.
Durham was able to free one of her hands, and the blindfold had slipped, and she fought Belt. During the struggle, he pushed her off a cliff that measured 77 feet, Brandenburg said.
Belt then took James to another spot, hit him several times in the head with what he later described as a hollow metal pipe about two feet long, and left his body, Brandenburg said.
Durham suffered a broken pelvis, a broken leg and other injuries, but she survived. Two hikers found her the next morning, and she told police that Belt was the attacker, Brandenburg said.
The detective said Belt first denied even knowing Durham or her son, but ultimately, he admitted attacking them.
Belt claimed that he had planned to leave the two in the woods “to let that be a lesson not to take money from him,” before Durham fought back, Brandenburg said.
Belt told police he thought David Durham had stolen $200 from Belt’s wallet in his bedroom, Brandenburg said.
Volunteers found James’ body Sept. 11, just over half a mile from where his mother had been found.
Belt is charged with kidnapping Jessica Durham and James, assaulting her, killing him and tampering with evidence.
The tampering charge stems from the accusation that Belt tried to paint over blood on the wall at his house afterthe attack on Durham.