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March 10, 1995 - Image 3

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-03-10

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 10, 1995 - 3


rosecutor prepares to take
serial rape case to trial

Mackie: Washtenaw
County prosecutor

r the past 2 1/2 years, Ann
Arbor citizens have had to
live with the fear of possibly
becoming the next victim of a serial
rapist - a criminal who brutally beats
his victims into unconsciousness and
then rapes them. The viciousness of
his attacks left one woman dead and
four others emotionally scarred.
Then on Christmas Day, an alert
cab driver gave Ann Arbor police a
gift in the form of a tip that led to the
arrest of a suspect. Ervin Dewain
Mitchell Jr., 33, now stands accused
of being the serial rapist. If he is
convicted, many concerned members
of the community will finally have
peace of mind.
Before the arrest, the Ann Arbor
police, who questioned nearly 800
possible suspects, seemed powerless
to stem the series of sexual assaults
occurring on the city's west side.
Mitchell was already in police
custody at the Washtenaw County
Jail on $50,000 bond awaiting an April
3 trial before Judge Donald Shelton
for an assault and attempted Christ-
mas Eve purse- snatching of a 34-
year-old Ann Arbor woman. If con-
victed on those charges, he faces up to
15 years in prison. He was denied
bond last week when he was charged
with four counts of first-degree crimi-
nal sexual conduct and one count of
first-degree murder.
"First-degree murder in Michigan
carries a mandatory sentence of life in
prison without parole," said
Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian
Mackie, the attorney handling both of
Mitchell's trials. "Criminal sexual
conduct in the first degree carries any
term of years - up to life."
Mitchell remained unemotional as
he pleaded not guilty before 14-A
District Court Magistrate George
Parker. The arraignment came after
months of public speculation and one
of the most intensive manhunts in the

police department's history.
Before the arraignment, while his
client sat in jail unable to meet his
bond, Washtenaw County Assistant
Public Defender Lankford accused
the prosecution of stalling and not
being able to meet their burden of
"If the evidence the prosecution
has is that good, why haven't they
charged him?" Lankford asked. "If
you can't charge him, you definitely
can't convict him."
It was less than three months ago
that police arrested Mitchell for al-
legedly punching a 34-year-old Ann
Arbor woman in the 1800 block of
Dexter Avenue and attempting to take
her purse.
Amid the glare of TV camera lights
and a swarm of reporters, Mitchell
smiled at his arraignment Dec. 27 on
those charges before 14-A District
Court Magistrate A. Thomas
Truesdell. "You all are going to be
seeing a lot of me," Mitchell said as
he was escorted back to his jail cell in
handcuffs and leg shackles.
Mitchell's words were prophetic
Where the trials
The public will be seeing more of
Mitchell at his preliminary examina-
tion March 15 in 15th District Court.
At that time, the judge will determine
if there is enough evidence to try
Mitchell for having committed the
Ann Arbor rapes and murder. If the
judge rules there is probable cause,
Mitchell will stand trial in Washtenaw
County Circuit Court for being the
serial rapist.
In several interviews with the
media, Mitchell and attorney Lankford
have maintained that he is, innocent of
the crimes he is accused of, despite
DNA evidence linking Mitchell to the
rapes. Mitchell said he has an alibi -
at least for the time of the Christmas
Eve robbery attempt.
"They (the police) got the wrong
guy," said Lankford, who will repre-
sent Mitchell for the robbery and the
sexual assault charges. "While this
charade continues, people in Ann Ar-
bor are being seriously endangered."
If Mitchell is the serial rapist, then
Ann Arbor may be able to put this
chapter of its history in the past. Dur-
ing the course of a multi-agent task

-- the latest rape attributed to the
serial rapist - included investiga-
tors from the Michigan State Police,
DPS, the Washtenaw County Sheriff's
Department and the Ann Arbor Po-
lice Department.
"We owe them a debt of gratitude
for their diligence and devotion to
duty during a very difficult investiga-
tion," said Ann Arbor Deputy Police
Chief Walter C. Lunsford. "We ap-
preciate the patience and cooperation
of the local and metro Detroit area
media during these past several
months and recognize we both have a
difficult job to do."
The woman in the last rape is the
only victim so far to get a good look at
her attacker. The police released their
most detailed description of the serial
rapist after the last attack. The woman's
wallet and checkbook were missing
after the attack, but were found in
another location with the aid of a po-
lice tracking dog. The rapist's other
victims were taken by surprise and too
disoriented afterward to provide much
of a description to the police.
Manhunt in Ann
As students' fear of the serial rap-
ist mounted, calls to the University's
student-run walking service increased
by 200 percent.
"In a certain sense, it's kind of
frustrating," Safewalk co-coordina-
tor Eric Kessell said. "When some-
thing like this happens, you'll see
walks go up and go down, until some-
thing happens again. Once people
begin to feel complacent again, they
will be less cautious."
An open letter released Nov. 14 by
police pleaded with city residents to
help them capture the serial rapist.
Among the signs the letter sug-
gests to look- for in the suspect are
depression, increased drinking or drug
use, missed appointments and a sud-
den interest in reading the newspaper.
The police also sought to reassure
Blacks that the new, more specific
profile would protect African Ameri-
can males from undue harassment.
City Councilmember Larry Hunter
(D-3rd Ward), who is Black, criti-
cized the police investigation. Hunter
is a member of the Coalition for Con-
munity Unity, a civil-rights watch-
dog organization.
Despite releasing a physical and

Ervin Dewain Mitchell Jr. faces charges from four
assaults that occurred between September
1992 and May 1994 on Ann Arbor's west aides
The attacks have all been linked to a single
assailant through DNA evidence left at each
crime scene. The charges are:
8 Sept. 23, 1992: Raping a 47-year-old woman who was
walking through Eberwhite Woods, south of Liberty Street
at 8 a.m. The woman was jumped from behind by a man
who repeatedly bludgeoned her with his fists while he
raped her, police reports say.
® Oct. 2, 1993: Raping a 23-year-old University student
who was walking to her apartment along the 400 block of
Longshore D~rive near Argo Park at 10:30 p~m. She
suffered head and facial injuries consistent with being
repeatedly punched and was raped when she lost
consciousness, according to police reports.
8 Nov. 2, 1993: Raping a 40-year-old woman as she was
returning to her apartment on the 800 block of Miller
Avenue from a shopping trip at about 1:45 a.m. As she
entered her apartment, she was knocked to the floor and
sexually assaulted. Police say the attacker used only his
9 May 7, 1994: Killing 32-year-old Christine GaIlbreath
along a lightly wooded path behind Ann Arbor's main U,
Post Office on West Stadium Boulevard, as she was
returning home from a nearby drugstore between 1 and
6:39 p.m. Police say she was repeatedly beaten with fists
and raped. The cause of death was listed as "Blunt
impact to head with injuries of brain;manual

Shelton: Washtenaw
bounty Circuit Judge

results indicated that Mitchell's blood
sample matched DNA found on four
of the rape victims.
A search warrant for Mitchell's
known previous addresses was issued
Jan. 11 after scientists at the Michi-
gan State Police Crime Laboratory in
East Lansing completed two DNA
probes of Mitchell's blood. The sta-
tistical chances that another Black
individual possesses the same DNA
profile as Mitchell is one in 17,000,
the technicians said. Four more probes
were conducted before Mitchell was
charged with the Ann Arbor rapes.
"(Lab technicians) break the DNA
down so much at each step or each
probe of the testing," said Ann Arbor
Police spokesman Sgt. Phil Scheel.
"Generally, the first two probes can
be done in two to three weeks. Then it
takes 10 days to two weeks for each
successive probe after that.
"To get through the whole process
of six, seven, eight probes - or how-
ever far they can break down a par-
ticular sample - can take several
weeks, even three or four months."

for to connect Mitchell to the last in
the series of rapes.
However, the victim could not
positively identify the recovered neck-
lace as hers.
Other ongoing
A Wayne County grand jury is
also collecting evidence to determine
whether to charge Mitchell with six
rape-murders that occurred between
1989 and 1991 in Inkster, Mich.
Mitchell was not charged in a 1992
Inkster case because there was insuf-
ficient, physical evidence left at that
crime scene to compare with DNA
samples taken from Mitchell. But
DNA results kept on file at the state
police crime lab indicated he was
responsible for the Ann Arbor rapes.
Mackie, however, was reluctant to
use the information collected by the
Inkster Police Department and waited
for the results of DNA tests of
Mitchell's blood taken after the purse-

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