Backpack bones case ends in manslaughter plea
Posted June 28, 2013
Durham, N.C. — A Mebane man pleaded guilty Friday to killing a woman several years ago and toting her remains around in a backpack.
Michael Dorman, 35, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Lakiea Lacole Boxley. He was sentenced to five to seven years in prison and was given credit for the three years he's already spent behind bars.
Dorman's case has made headlines since his July 2010 arrest. Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson's decision to dismiss the case a year later escalated a feud between him and then-Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline, which ultimately led to her ouster.
"I am not pleading guilty out of guilt but out of fear I won't get an unbiased or fair trial," Dorman said.
His arrest came after one of his friends told authorities that Dorman admitted to killing a prostitute and had asked for help disposing of her remains, which he had in a backpack. Dorman told investigators, however, that he only found the remains and planned to use them for his sexual gratification.
Assistant District Attorney said in court Friday that Dorman said he accidentally shot Boxley in the head with a shotgun after she refused to have sex with him. When that didn't kill her, however, he strangled her and put her body in a suitcase, Echols said.
Public defender Lawrence Campbell said Durham police botched the investigation, which "essentially caused this case to crash and burn."
"The state cannot prove who this woman was, where the body was found (or) where the body was allegedly murdered," Campbell said. "The state has allowed and assisted in the destruction of evidence."
Boxley's family cremated her remains shortly after Dorman was indicted. Hudson ruled two years ago that Dorman was deprived a fair trial because his attorneys couldn't conduct their own tests on the bones to back up his claims.
The judge determined that Cline conspired with police and state agents to destroy evidence in the case. She then publicly accused him of corruption and trying to undermine her prosecutions, which led to her being removed from office six months later.
The state Court of Appeals overturned the decision in February and reinstated the murder charge against Dorman.
Hudson, who accepted Dorman's plea and handed down the sentence Friday, called the plea deal a "just resolution" to the case.
Boxley's family, however, said she didn't receive justice.
"It’s just unbelievable. The justice system is supposed to protect and serve, and they let this guy slip through the justice system twice," said Boxley's sister, Latifah White.
White brought her sister's remains to court in an urn Friday.
"I thought it was important for me to bring them so the judge would know I still have problems letting go," she said.