(CBS/AP) SPOKANE, Wash. - Two 16-year-old boys pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other charges in the beating death of an 88-year-old World War II veteran in Washington state.
Demetrius Glenn and Kenan Adams-Kinard are being tried as adults in the case that has sparked nationwide outrage.
The teens said little during their separate appearances before Spokane County Superior Court Judge James Triplet.
They are accused of beating Delbert "Shorty" Belton to death in his car outside an Eagles Lodge in Spokane on Aug. 22.
A letter found at the home where Adams-Kinard was arrested said they punched Belton three times before taking his wallet and drugs from his pockets, authorities said.
Belton's body was found wedged between the front bucket seats, with his lower body folded into the back seat. The suspects' fingerprints were found on the doors of the car, court documents state.
The teens were being held on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. They could face life in prison if convicted.
The letter indicated Adams-Kinard had called Belton and arranged to buy crack cocaine. However, police have said there was no evidence that Belton was a drug dealer.
"The kid wrote a letter to his mom admitting this crap and now he pleads not guilty," Ted Denison, a close friend of Belton, complained after the court appearance. "That's bull."
CBS affiliate KREM reports supporters of the teens say they will stand by the boys. While Belton's friends said they could empathize with them, they also said the drug allegations the teens made against Belton were infuriating.
"I'd stand by my kid no matter what he did but I wouldn't drag someone else's name through the freaking mud either," said one friend, reports KREM. "To me, they're just looking for an out and it ain't going to happen."
Belton was born in Sunnyside and raised in Spokane. He got his nickname as an adult for being just over five feet tall.
After the war, he spent 33 years working for Kaiser Aluminum before retiring in 1982. He survived being shot in the leg in the battle of Okinawa.
Glenn, who turned himself in, was being held in lieu of $2 million bail, and his trial was set for Nov. 9. Adams-Kinard, who is suspected of hiding from police after the slaying, is jailed on $3 million bail. His trial is set for Nov. 4.
Both teens have criminal records on file in Spokane County Superior Court, KREM reports. Adams-Kinard pleaded guilty to theft and fourth-degree assault in an incident in May. Glenn pleaded guilty to an assault and riot charge in January.
The Associated Press does not generally identify minors accused of a crime but is naming the teens because of the severity of the charges.