For Immediate Release: October 20, 2020
SAKI Grant and Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit Arrests
The Durham Police Department’s Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit, which is funded through a $1 million National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) project grant, has filed charges against 11 people in connection with 15 sexual assault cases going back as far as 1984. In some cases, investigators were able to identify serial offenders.
“I am especially proud of our Cold Case Unit who continues to demonstrate passionate work both personally and professionally. Our Cold Case Unit remains committed to the victims in each and every one of these cases. They work tirelessly to make sure that we offer a victim-centered, trauma informed investigation where the victim decides how they want to proceed with their case in pursuit of justice. Their dedication and concern for the victims in these cases is unwavering,” said Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis.
The three-year SAKI grant, which was awarded to the DPD last fall by the U.S. Department of Justice Programs (OJP) through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), provides additional resources for investigating cold case sexual assaults as well as resources to address sexual assault kits in the department's inventory that have not been submitted to the state laboratory for DNA testing. The Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit works to ensure that a complete victim-centered approach is taken during the investigation, prosecution and healing process for survivors of cold case sexual assaults. In addition, the grant provides funds for training, travel and equipment as well as assistance for the Durham Crisis Response Center (DCRC).
"Through this collaboration between the Durham Police Department, Durham Crisis Response Center and Durham DA's Office, survivors of sexual assault and their cases will be treated with the priority and care they deserve. My office is fully committed to working with our partners to keep reviewing these years-old cases, seek accountability, and support survivors in every way we can,” said Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry.
The SAKI grant has also helped fund the department’s sexual assault kit project, which started in 2018 to inventory and submit untested sexual assault kits for testing. As a result, there were 456 case submission forms entered to be tested through June 2020. During that time, 102 cases were completed with reports and uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and investigators received 60 CODIS hit notifications. Investigators are contacted as soon as the lab gets a DNA hit and the case moves forward. The suspects who have been charged have all been identified through CODIS DNA testing.
“Today’s news underscores North Carolina’s commitment to getting justice for survivors of sexual assault,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Durham is making great strides toward testing the kits in its custody – and that’s resulting in arrests. To the public, we will not stop working to keep you safe, and to any would-be rapists, we will never stop coming after you.”
Michael Brooks Jr., 47, has been charged and arrested in connection with three cases. Further charges are pending. He is in Durham County Jail under a $2,250,000 bond.
Michael Anthony McNeal, 60, was arrested on September 14 and charged in connection with cases from 1996, 1998 and 2003. He was indicted on three counts of first-degree rape and four counts of first-degree sexual offense. He was placed in Durham County Jail under a $15,000 bond.
Vincent Sowell, 27, was indicted on September 8 on charges of second-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping in connection with a 2007 case. The indictments were served on Sowell in the Alamance County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since 2018 on a murder charge from Burlington, N.C.
Antwoine Lloyd, 60, was indicted on September 8 on one count of first-degree rape in connection with a 2005 case. He was arrested on September 10 and released without bond.
James Randall Harris Jr., 45, of Durham was indicted on September 8 on one charge of second-degree rape and one charge of first-degree kidnapping in connection with a 2010 case. He was also wanted on one count of failure to report change of address – sex offender. He was placed in Durham County Jail under a $275,000 bond.
Robert Burnette, 58, of Carrboro was indicted on September 8 on a charge of second-degree rape in connection with a 1984 case. He was arrested on October 7 and released from jail after posting a $75,000 bond.
Johnathan Partridge, 36, of Durham was indicted on a charge of second-degree rape and second-degree sexual offense on September 8. These charges are in connection with a 2013 case. He was arrested on October 5 and released from jail after posting a $50,000 bond.
Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit
The grant funds positions for two full-time cold case sexual assault investigators, one full-time victim/witness assistant and one full-time assistant district attorney for three years. These positions have all been filled.
DPD Investigators Anne Cristaldi and Winston Hunt – Investigator Cristaldi, a 20-year veteran of the Durham Police Department, was the first investigator assigned to the unit. Investigator Cristaldi has worked in most areas of criminal investigators including robbery and homicide. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and has earned a North Carolina Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate, which is the highest certification issued by the state. Investigator Cristaldi was also named the DPD’s Outstanding Investigator in 2019.
Investigator Winston Hunt joined the Durham Police Department in 2012 and worked patrol in District 4 until he was assigned to the Special Victims Unit in 2017. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and has earned a North Carolina Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate, which is the highest certification issued by the state.
Assistant District Attorney – ADA Blake Norman was assigned to the unit in July. As the designated SAKI prosecutor, he is a member of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Unit. Prior to joining the DA's Office, ADA Norman practiced law for 16 years at the state and federal levels, including criminal defense and parent defense in abuse, neglect and dependency cases. He earned his law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law.
Victim/Witness Assistant – Our victim/witness assistant, Tammy Tavarez, was hired by the DPD and started work last month. She works with victims from the time of notification through the entire legal process. Tavarez, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the College of New Jersey. She is a cold case sexual assault advocate and is certified in victim-centered approaches. She is trained in crisis intervention, de-escalation techniques and safety planning. She was previously employed by Safe Horizon’s Crime Victim Assistance program, the nation’s leading victim services organization in partnership with the New York Police Department.
Investigator Jasmine Lyons, Special Victims Unit – Although Investigator Lyons is not formally assigned to the Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit, she has provided invaluable assistance to the unit. She reviews each case, completes submission requests, logs approvals, prepares for shipment, and tracks kits through the process and monitors lab reports.