DNA pro­file helps find sus­pect in as­sault cold case

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - News/obituaries - BY ASHAD HAJELA aha­[email protected]­sob­server.com Ashad Hajela: 919-836-2813, ashad_ha­jela

A sus­pect in a 2015 sex­ual as­sault in Durham has been ar­rested af­ter be­ing iden­ti­fied through DNA test­ing, ac­cord­ing to Durham po­lice.

Emanuel Dwayne Burch, 32, was ar­rested in Chapel Hill on Jan. 22 on charges of first-de­gree sex­ual as­sault and at­tempted first-de­gree mur­der.

In Novem­ber 2015, a woman told of­fi­cers she was walk­ing home from work on the Ellerbe Creek Trail near Da­cian Av­enue when a man choked her from be­hind un­til she was un­con­scious. She said he pulled her into the woods and sex­u­ally as­saulted her, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the Durham Po­lice De­part­ment.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors col­lected ev­i­dence us­ing a sex­ual as­sault ev­i­dence col­lec­tion kit, and sent the DNA pro­file in for test­ing. In Septem­ber 2019, they learned that the pro­file from the kit matched a DNA pro­file linked to Burch in a na­tional DNA data­base called the na­tional Com­bined DNA In­dex Sys­tem (CODIS).

Af­ter ob­tain­ing a search war­rant they col­lected a DNA sam­ple from Burch in Oc­to­ber and sent it to the State Crime Lab. They got the re­sults con­firm­ing the match to Burch in Jan­uary and ar­rested him a few days later.

It took so long to iden­tify a sus­pect be­cause of a lack of re­sources to out­source the DNA test­ing, au­thor­i­ties said. The state test­ing lab tests sex­ual as­sault kits from all around the state and tends to have a back­log.

There are roughly 1,400 untested sex­ual as­sault kits in Durham, as well as 10,000 to 12,000 untested kits statewide, ac­cord­ing to N.C. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Stein.

In the fall of 2019, Durham Po­lice De­part­ment re­ceived a three-year $1 mil­lion Na­tional Sex­ual As­sault Kit Ini­tia­tive grant to pro­vide ad­di­tional re­sources for in­ves­ti­gat­ing cold case sex­ual as­saults, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from Durham po­lice.

The grant will pay for a sec­ond full-time in­ves­ti­ga­tor and a lieu­tenant, a full-time vic­tim ad­vo­cate and a full-time as­sis­tant district at­tor­ney in Durham, the re­lease said.

“To the vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault in North Carolina, the state cares about you and we will do ev­ery­thing in our power to bring jus­tice to you,” Stein said. “To the rapists, we want to be clear that no mat­ter how long ago you com­mit­ted your crime, we will never stop com­ing for you.”

Burch is be­ing held at Durham County Jail un­der a $500,000 bond.

Emanuel Burch

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