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5 Stories That Rocked Our Summer

5 Stories That Rocked Our Summer image
Parent Issue
Month
September
Year
1995
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held By
Agenda Publications
OCR Text

Resentment of Pólice Investigation Lingers StreetsStill NotSafe The case of the Ann Arbor serial rapist carne to a close thls summer wlth the convictlon of Ervin Dewain Mitchell Jr. on four counts of sexual assault and onecountofmurder.OnJuly 13 Judge Donald Shelton sentenced Mitchell to mandatory life in prison and an additional 50-75 years for the murder of Christlne Galbraith (who he was also convicted of raping). Mitchell also received three concurrent 50-75 year sentences for the rapes of three other Ann Arbor women. This case demonstrates that criminal sexual conduct has nothing to do with sex and everything to do wlth assault and violence," said Judge Shelton in handing down the sentence. "lf you are never again free, what we do here will have accomplished something." In May 1994, shortly after the brutal rape and murder of Ann Arbor resident Christlne Gailbreath, pólice released Information polnting to the existence of a serial rapist This rapist was believed responsible for 1 1 assaults (rapes, attempted rapes, and one murder) since February 1992. The attacker's modus operandus was to approach his victim from behind, knock her unconscious, and then rape her. Most of the vlctims never saw their attacker. The few who did were only able to provide a vague description of him. Then last Christmas Eve, Michelle Richards, the last of Mitchell's victims - a woman who he assaulted and attempted to rob - got a good look at hlm. In particular, she noted his white gloves, which he was still wearing when spotted on Christmas morning by cabbie Mike DeCamillo. DeCamillo had received the description over hls dispatch radio. He contacted pólice and kept Mitchell in sight until pólice arrived. The case against Mitchell for the three rapes and one rapemurder rested primarily on DNA evidence (he has yet to stand trial for the attempted robbery) . DNA from his blood sample matched that of semen found on four of the victims. "The statistical findings establish that Mr. Mitchell's DNA matches, and a statistical populaüon figure shows one African American in 2 trillion would have similar genetic markings," testified Dr. Julie Howenstlne, an expert in the analysis of DNA. "Sixprobes match Mr. Mitchell," she sald. "Four probes are usually acceptable as proof and six are irrefutable." Mitchell is appealing his convictlons, a process which could take three or more years. He begins serving his life sentence in the meantlme. Bitterness remains in the community Due to the vagueness of the description of the assailant - a black man of mediumbuild , 25-35 years old - it seemed that an overwhelming number of black men in Ann Arbor could be considered suspects in the massive manhunt. Pólice claim that 600 black men were questioned during the investigation and blood was taken for DNA analysis from 1 60 of them. The process Ann Arbor pólice chose of elimlnatlng American men as suspects proved costly in terms of public relations with the black community. Many men claimed they were coerced into giving blood and now worry that their DNA workup will remain in a pólice computer database. Some report that being questloned as a suspect was stressful and embarassing. Last summer , local civil rights activists formed the Coalition for Community Unity (CCU) out of concern for how the investigation was being carried out. They worked to inform black men of their rights when being questioned by the pólice. Thatgroup continúes to meet regularly, and is still deeply critical of pólice actlons In the investigation. According to CCU member and former Ann Arbor City Council member Larry Hunter, the coalition would like to see three things happen. "First, we want an apology from the pólice," Hunter told AGENDA. "Second we want the return of the blood samples and third, many of us believe there should be some sortof remuneration back to the people who were harmed in these events." The pólice claim they need to keep the blood samples as evidence until all of Mitchell's appeals are exhausted. At a community forum held by the Ann Arbor Pólice Department Aug. 2, pólice learned just how much resentment remains in the community. Pólice Chief Cari Ent apologized for "any pain caused to this community, but especially to the 1 60 men." Still, residents lambasted the department for insensitivity and a lack of respect. As reported in The Ann Arbor News, CCU member Aaron Shell asked, "Without respect for the community, how can the community respect pólice?" At the community meeting, Ent vowed to improve offleer training and to créate four citizen advisory boards. The Pólice Chief has also requested that men from whom blood samples were taken, cali him to discuss their feelings on the process. He claims that their feedback could be used to change pólice procedures in such matters. Streets are still not safe Law enforcement officials warn that Just because Mitchell was convicted, the streets are still not safe. "Mitchell is not the only person out there who poses a threat," said Ypsilanti Pólice Detective Sgt. Ron Kohier in a July 1 6 article in The Ann Arbor News. Washtenaw County Sherriffs Dept. Detective LL R.J. Smith estimates that up to 90% of sexual assaults in Washtenafw County are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. To Joyce Wright, education coördinator for U-M's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) , Mitchell's convicüon means that "we have one less rapist out there on the streets." "Because this case was such a high profile one, many women may feel that it's safe again," Wright told AGENDA. "It's important to not let your guard down because there are others out there you may not be aware of." The Commission on Increasing Safety for Women, a group initiated by the Ann Arbor City CouncU, has been studying ways to improve women's safety in the city- including the distribution of 5,000 photocell porch lights and other sexual assault prevention and education efforts. The commission is now in the process of implementing their flndings. They can be reached at the Mayor's office: 994-2766. U-M's anti-violence efforts are conducted through SAPAC. They can be reached at 763-5865. Reward money awarded Cab driver DeCamillo, who helped facilítate Mitchell's capture, was initialty awarded the $ 100,000 reward money that had been offered through The Ann Arbor News' Secret Witness program for information leading to the arrest of the serial rapist. Half of the reward money had been pledged by McKinley Associates and the rest from other local buslnesses and a group called Neighbors ofEberwhlte Woods (where the first of the strtng of attacks occurred). Mie helle Richards, however, avictlmof Mitchell, claimed her description of Mitchell entitled her to part of the reward money. After Richards threa tened legal action, the reward committee (composed of Ann Arbor Pólice Chief Cari Ent, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie , and Ann Arbor News Publisher David Wierman) reconsidered their decisión and split the reward money between DeCamillo and Richards. The details of that settlement have not been made public.

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