DNA profile helps find suspect in assault cold case
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.