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Durham prosecutors dismiss charges in 1998 death of toddler

Posted 12:08 p.m. Tuesday

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— The Durham County District Attorney's Office has quietly dismissed the charges against Derrick Michael Allen, a Durham man who spent 12 years in prison for the 1998 sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

"After significant investigation by law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office, witnesses essential to the prosecution of this case either cannot be located or are uncooperative and refuse to assist in the prosecution. As a result, the State cannot meet the burden of proving every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore cannot proceed with the prosecution of this case," Assistant District Attorney Luke Bumm wrote on the dismissal form, which was filed Oct. 25.

According to court documents, Allen was babysitting the toddler when he called 911, telling authorities she was unresponsive. Emergency personnel arrived to find the girl had no pulse and what appeared to be blood on the inside leg of her pajamas. An autopsy determined the girl died of shaken baby syndrome.

In 1999, Allen entered an Alford plea in the case – he maintained his innocence but acknowledged the state had enough evidence to convict him – and was sentenced to 43 to 54 years in prison.

Six years ago, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed the charges because of problems at the State Crime Lab that tested the child’s clothing.

Allen's case was among 200 that an outside audit said were mishandled by the lab. The audit revealed agents failed to report correct blood evidence in the cases.

The state Court of Appeals later overturned Hudson’s outright dismissal of the charges and sent the case back to Durham for a new trial.

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