Charles Frederick Heller charged with the murder of daughter’s boyfriend, Dustyn Hunt-Bagby. Father claims self defense, while questions raised if shooting death was racially motivated.
A father has been charged with second degree murder, nearly two years after shooting dead his daughter’s mix raced boyfriend when he found him hiding in her bedroom after curfew as the victim’s mother claims the fatal incident was racially motivated.
Charles Frederick Heller III, 49, is accused of fatally shooting 21-year-old Dustyn Hunt-Bagby inside his Everett, Washington, home in February 2019, after becoming angry that his daughter Lauryn Heller, then 20, had tried to sneak Hunt into her room for the night.
The father reportedly armed himself before knocking on his daughter’s bedroom door to confront the couple. A struggle ensued between Heller and Hunt, with the father pulling the trigger of his semi-automatic handgun, striking Hunt once in the chest.
Charles Heller claims he fired the gun in self-defense, believing Hunt was going to choke him, police said. Lauryn Heller, however, argued that Hunt didn’t attack him in any way.
Come Monday, Heller was charged in Snohomish County Superior Court with second-degree murder according to the Everett Herald.
Shooting motivated by race?
It’s unclear why charges were not filed until two years after the shooting, but the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office previously said that investigators were waiting to receive results from forensic tests the Seattle Times reported.
Lisa Ledbetter Hunt, Hunt’s mother, told the dailymail she believes her son’s shooting son was ‘motivated by race’.
‘I really believe it was racially motivated. What else would it have been? It’s really the only explanation. I also believe that if [Charles Heller] was black and my son was white [Heller] would have been arrested that night and probably already convicted,’ the mother told the tabloid.
Hunt, an aspiring musician who went by the name PrettyBoi Nabii, had been dating Lauryn Heller for a few weeks prior to his death. The night he died, the couple were watching a movie together in her room and drinking wine.
Lauryn Heller has also previously suggested she believes race may have played a factor in the shooting, and why her father wasn’t charged for so long.
In a Facebook post in August 2019 linking to a video (see below) of her speaking about the incident, she wrote: ‘Please take the time to watch this and share this if you’re even remotely my friend. We need to raise awareness.
‘White privilege is real. Dustyn was the kindest soul and my father lost his own self control and KILLED him yet wasn’t even CHARGED with anything.’
Arrived at daughter’s bedroom brandishing gun
The fatal exchange between Hunt and Mr. Heller occurred just before 11pm on February 25, 2019.
The Heller family reportedly had a rule that Lauryn could have company over, but no one was allowed to stay overnight. The couple told detectives they didn’t like the people she brought over and considered kicking her out of the house because of it, according to the Herald Net.
Heller and his wife then reportedly left the house to go out for dinner. When they returned around 8pm, they could still hear someone in their daughter’s room.
Charles Heller told police he didn’t feel threatened that someone was with his daughter, only he wanted them out.
Some two hours later, at around 10pm, Charles Heller reportedly sent Lauryn a text, saying her guest needed to be out the home by 10:30pm.
He then grabbed a loaded handgun and placed in on the coffee table in front of him, his wife would later tell investigators.
Daughter attempts to trick her father
Lauryn didn’t respond to the message, believing it wouldn’t be a big deal if Hunt stayed longer.
When nobody had left by the 10:30pm curfew, Charles Heller knocked on his daughter’s door and reminder her that her guest needed to leave.
Lauryn then attempted to trick her father by leaving the house by herself and turning off her bedroom light behind her while Hunt hid under her bed.
But her parents say that made them more concerned because they knew somebody had been with her in her room.
Less than a minute after Lauryn left the home, she saw her bedroom light switch on and heard her father yelling, according to prosecutors.
As it would turn out, Charles Heller had gone upstairs to search the room, armed with a loaded handgun.
In an interview with detectives, Heller said he had asked his daughter’s guests to leave in the past but had never been armed.
He said he couldn’t explain why he had chosen to bring a gun on this occasion, only that he thought at the time it was ‘better to be safe than sorry’.
‘Something didn’t feel right about the situation,’ the father told police, according to charging papers. ‘When she walked out by herself and me knowing that someone was still in there, something didn’t feel right.’
Finger was on the trigger
Charles Frederick Heller reportedly searched the room twice, and on the second occasion looked under the bed to find Hunt wearing only his underwear and a t-shirt.
In the meantime, Lauryn ran back inside the home and up to her room.
Inside, she found her father pointing his gun at Hunt, who was stood on opposite sides of the room, across the bed, from Mr. Heller.
Mr. Heller reportedly yelled at Hunt to get dressed and get out – an order which the 21-year-old reportedly followed.
Heller told detectives he had been concerned Hunt was armed, but admitted he hadn’t seen any weapons.
Lauryn Heller, meanwhile said she jumped in front of her father’s gun, because ‘I thought if he saw me, maybe he’d put it down and stop.’
Lauryn said her father’s finger was on the trigger, which concerned her.
‘This point was important to Lauryn, and played a large role in her fear, because her father, formerly in the military, has training in handling firearms and had taught her that you do not put your finger on the trigger unless you are prepared to shoot,’ prosecutors wrote.
Hunt reportedly attempted to apologize to Mr. Heller and said he was going to leave, while the father yelled profanities at him, prosecutors say.
Justice for Dustyn?
When Hunt saw Heller’s gun pointed at Lauryn, he is said to have pushed the gun to the side and away from them, causing the father to fall backwards onto the bed.
Charles Heller reported that he thought Hunt was trying to choke him when he reached for the gun.
A scuffle then ensued between Hunt, Heller and his daughter.
Charles Heller then said he stood up, aimed his gun at Hunt’s shoulder and fired once.
He would later tell investigators that he never thought about punching or striking Hunt with the gun, and said the shooting was entirely intentional.
A call to 911 was made by the daughter, with responding officers finding Lauryn hysterically crying on the front porch, saying ‘My dad shot him’.
Charles Heller, meanwhile, was inside his daughter’s bedroom applying pressure to Hunt’s gunshot wound.
Hunt then stopped breathing. Deputies attempted the revive him but their efforts were unsuccessful.
‘It upsets me so much that this is my own dad. But this is what happened and this is what I saw,’ Lauryn told the Seattle Times months after the shooting. ‘I just want there to be justice in whatever way that’s served. I want his family to know peace. I want everybody to know what happened.’
In the nearly two years since Hunt’s death, friends and family said they felt the death of Hunt-Bagby had been swept under the rug. They held a demonstration outside the Snohomish County Courthouse. They started a Facebook page called “Justice for Dustyn Coalition,” where they shared pictures of Hunt-Bagby and his music.
‘This was what I was waiting for,’ Hunt’s mother told the the Seattle Times. ‘This charge means so much … I started to lose any type of hope for justice. I felt like it was slowly being forgotten about and brushed aside.’
After being charged Monday, Charles Frederick Heller reportedly remains free pending trial.