A Michigan teen, Mujey Dumbuya, was scheduled to testify against her alleged rapist in court before she vanished from her school bus stop in late January. Days later, she was found dead in the woods.
On Wednesday ― the week she would have appeared in court ― prosecutors charged the man, Quinn Anthony James, with her murder in a case that illustrates the fears some girls and women have when reporting assaults.
James, 43, had been released late last year on $100,000 bail while awaiting trial. He became a person of interest in the case quickly after Dumbuya’s strangled body was discovered in Kalamazoo, around 50 miles from her home in Grand Rapids. She was 16.
Witnesses said James had been searching for someone to assist him in the murder and disposal of the body, leading authorities to a Detroit man named Gerald Bennett, 58. Together, James and Bennett plotted to kill Dumbuya, Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker announced Wednesday. Bennett allegedly received a vehicle from James as payment.
Charges against James include first-degree premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and imprisonment, while Bennett is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Dumbuya’s original allegations against James stem from a reported sexual assault last summer in a parked car located around eight miles from her school, East Kentwood High. James had been employed as a maintenance worker for the school district until administrators learned of the alleged assault. He was fired in November, arrested, charged with four counts of criminal sexual conduct and released on bail.
Becker cited substantial evidence tying James to Dumbuya’s murder, from content on the suspect’s phone to forensic proof.
Records placed James near the teen’s home and bus stop the night before she went missing, he said. On the day of her disappearance, Jan. 24, images captured by a trail camera show a vehicle of the same type James had loaned from a dealership that same day ― a black GMC Acadia ― “in close proximity” to where her body was found. Prosecutors allege that James lied about his whereabouts during that timeframe.
Forensic evidence also “ties James to the victim’s clothing,” prosecutors said.
Police located the vehicle Bennett allegedly received at his girlfriend’s residence in Detroit, along with video showing him with James the day before Dumbuya’s disappearance. Prosecutors say James was wiring money to Bennett’s girlfriend.
Fear of retaliation is often cited among reasons women and girls choose not to report sexual assault.
“I used to tell them [sexual assault survivors]: That [violent retaliation] something you see on TV. That’s really not going to happen,” Becker told reporters Wednesday after announcing the charges. “This is very rare, an extremely rare event, so I’m not going to take the whole criminal justice system and say this is a failure.”
Shortly after Dumbuya’s death, James was arrested on another rape charge in a different case and is currently in jail.
A GoFundMe campaign set up to cover funerary costs has raised more than $14,000, surpassing its $10,000 goal. Services were held for Dumbuya in early February.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.