Partygoers' tips led to arrest in reported rape

Staff WriterMarch 9, 2007 

— A search warrant returned Thursday describes the investigation that led police to a suspect in the reported rape of a Duke University freshman at a Feb. 11 off-campus party.

Michael Jermaine Burch, 21, was charged with second-degree rape eight days after the 18-year-old accuser told police she was sexually assaulted while attending a party at a 405 Gattis St. duplex. Burch posted $50,000 bail the day he was arrested.

Witnesses said the party drew more than 50 people. The victim told investigators she had danced with Burch earlier in the evening, court papers said. When she went to use the bathroom, Burch came in behind her and closed the door. Once inside, he forced the victim to the ground, hitting her head on a sink, and assaulted her, according to the search warrant.

"The victim stated that she would be able to identify the suspect if she saw him again," the document said.

Two witnesses told investigators that they didn't see the victim for about an hour during the course of the party and that they observed her crying after leaving the bathroom.

One of those witnesses led police to a third person who attended the party, a Durham Technical Community College student who also works at Duke University. That third witness told police that he might know the man suspected in the case. The suspect, he told them, plays basketball at Duke's Wilson Gym on Saturdays with another Duke employee. He told police that both men played ball at the gym Feb. 11 and arrived at the party together, according to the search warrant.

To gain access to the gym, Duke students and employees must swipe their identification. A search of the facility's Feb. 11 security records led police to Brandon Rogers, who confirmed he went to the party with Burch.

"At one point during the party, Michael Burch began dancing with and getting close to a white female wearing a striped polo shirt," the search warrant says Rogers told police. He also said he saw Burch enter the bathroom with the victim. Burch was in the bathroom a long time, Rogers said, and he "could hear a thumping noise coming from the room." Rogers eventually left the party without Burch because Burch was in the bathroom for so much time, Rogers told police.

Burch also was positively identified by one of the first two witnesses as the person who left the bathroom while the victim was inside.

Investigators think Burch's DNA, including saliva and semen, are present on items collected from the victim, the document said. Investigators have obtained hair, blood and saliva from Burch, according to the search warrant.

Staff writer Stanley B. Chambers Jr. can be reached at 956-2426 or stan.chambers@newsobserver.com.

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