A Washington father has been charged with second degree murder, nearly two years after shooting dead his daughter’s boyfriend when he found him hiding in her bedroom after curfew.
Charles Frederick Heller, 49, is accused of fatally shooting 21-year-old Dustyn Hunt inside his Everett 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.
He reportedly armed himself before knocking on his daughter’s bedroom door to confront the couple. A struggle ensued between Mr. Heller and Hunt, and the father pulled 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.
Mr. Heller was charged Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court with second-degree murder.
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.
Lisa Ledbetter, Hunt’s mother, told DailyMail.com she believes the shooting of her 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.’
Charles Frederick Heller, 49, is accused of fatally shooting 21-year-old Dustyn Hunt (left) inside his Everett home in February 2019, after becoming angry that his daughter Lauryn Heller (right), then 20, had tried to sneak Hunt into her room for the night
Lisa Ledbetter (left), Hunt’s (right) mother, told the Seattle Times : ‘This was what I was waiting for. This charge means so much’
The fatal exchange between Hunt and Mr. Heller occurred just before 11pm on February 25, 2019, at the Heller’s home in Everett (above)
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.
The fatal exchange between Hunt and Mr. Heller occurred just before 11pm on February 25, 2019.
Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies responded to the Heller family’s home in Everett after receiving two calls from the same location at around the same time. The first call was made by Lauryn, the second was from her mother.
Earlier that day, Lauryn Heller and Hunt had sneaked into the house, prosecutors said. They didn’t interact with her parents, but both Mr. Heller and his wife told authorities they could hear their daughter talking and laughing with someone in her room.
The Heller family reportedly had a rule that Lauryn could have company over, but no one was allowed to stay overnight.
Mr. 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.
Charles Heller claims he fired the gun in self-defense, believing Hunt was going to choke him, police said. Lauryn Heller (above), however, argued that Hunt didn’t attack him in any way
Hunt, a 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
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.
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 a couple of hours later, Heller said he had asked his daughter’s guests to leave in the past but have 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,’ he 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.’
Lauryn 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
In the nearly two years since Hunt’s death, friends and family of the aspiring musician have held rallies, fundraisers and organized petitions, calling for ‘Justice for Dustyn’
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.
‘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’
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.
When Hunt saw Mr. Heller’s gun was pointed at Lauryn, he is said to have pushed the gun to the side and away from them, causing Mr. Heller 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, Mr. 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.
Lauryn Heller then frantically dialed 911, telling the operator that someone had been shot and needed help ‘immediately’.
Mr. Heller’s wife also called 911, but was reportedly calm, saying: ‘Yeah, I need the police at our house, we have someone at our house we don’t want.’
Shown above in a memorial held for Dustyn last year as a friends and family attempted to bring attention to the case as they sought justice
When police arrived, officers reported 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.
His last words were said to be, ‘I’ve been shot’, before slipping out of consciousness.
‘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
In the nearly two years since Hunt’s death, friends and family of the aspiring musician have held rallies, fundraisers and organized petitions, calling for ‘Justice for Dustyn’.
After being charged Monday, Charles Heller reportedly remains free pending trial.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, Hunt’s mother Lisa Ledbetter said she has never met Charles Heller, but ‘I do hope one day to look him in the eyes to see how much pain he’s caused.’
‘I know no matter what, nothing will bring my son back or take away from the everyday pain of knowing I will never see him again. He will never get married, have kids, have a career, come to family dinners but this decision does make the pain a little easier to handle.
‘It also has made it so I can breathe a bit better,’ she continued. ‘Some of the anger I have inside, which is quite a bit, has been lifted.’