Trial for man accused of kidnapping neighbor children begins

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The trial of a man accused of kidnapping his neighbor's children began Monday morning in Salt Lake City. It is a case that has sparked a lot of controversy.

Two very different stories are emerging in this case. Prosecutors say David James Bell kidnapped the two children, but his attorneys say this is a case of child neglect.

During opening statements, prosecutors told the jury Bell took the two kids after a Fourth of July celebration last year. They said the mother of one of the kids noticed her 2-year-old missing, and instinct told her to go to Bell's house next door because Bell had been hanging out with her family earlier in the morning.

Prosecutors said when the mother found the children at Bell's home, emotions were high and the kids' relatives assaulted Bell and his partner. But prosecutors told the jury to focus on the kidnapping, not the assault.

Prosecutors also said Bell later confessed to taking the kids, saying, quote: "I took the children. I shouldn't have taken them."

"There's no way anything like this would enter DJ's mind. To be accused of something like this is just unfathomable. It's a travesty, it really is," said Bell's friend Cindy Lassig.

Lassig was among a group of Bell's friends who filled the courtroom Monday.

"He puts on a very strong face, but he's terrified," said friend Megan Pedersen. "He's an innocent man facing 30 years in prison, and a gay man, nonetheless, facing prison time."

The friends have also been protesting the case outside the courthouse, calling this a hate crime. Bell's attorneys say his sexual orientation is an issue in this case.

During their opening statements, defense attorneys did not tell the jury why the neighbor's kids were in his house. But they described the brutal beating he endured at the hands of the kids' relatives and say he still suffers hearing loss because of it.

Bell's attorneys say his confession to police was nonsensical because he suffered a traumatic head injury.

Defense attorneys say Bell will take the stand in his own defense. The trial expected to last all week.



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