Local News

Murder charge dropped against suspect in Durham girl's death

Posted April 1, 2014

Brandon Townsend

— A delay in obtaining DNA evidence prompted Durham County prosecutors on Monday to dismiss a murder charge against a man who has spent almost two years in jail awaiting trial in the 2011 drive-by shooting death of a 13-year-old girl.

Shakanah China, a seventh-grader at Lakeview School in Durham, was playing outside an Atka Court apartment complex on May 10, 2011, when someone fired several shots from a passing van. She was hit in the stomach and died.

A year later, Brandon Townsend and Levette Lipscomb were charged in her death.

Defense attorney Scott Holmes has argued ever since the arrest that Townsend, now 21, wasn't near Atka Court on the night of the shooting. No eyewitnesses placed him at the scene.

Holmes said the case against Townsend was based solely on the word of a confidential police informant who said he saw Townsend get into a van shortly before the shooting and return in a van shortly thereafter.

Authorities collected DNA from Townsend in October 2012 to compare with evidence collected from a van that police found near the shooting, but prosecutors acknowledged Monday that the DNA remains at the State Crime Lab and has never been tested.

Holmes requested a speedy trial two months after Townsend's arrest, and he complained in court documents filed last fall that prosecutors repeatedly postponed the trial awaiting the DNA evidence. He said the delays violated Townsend's constitutional rights.

The status of the case against Lipscomb, 28, was unclear Tuesday.


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  • Jump1 Apr 1, 2014

    SBI is to busy to worry about small things like this, now they will come back and say they need more tech and money to fix the problem...

  • Moist Apr 1, 2014

    Even after the whole SBI fiasco the DA's still cant play by the rules....they are just as bad as the criminals they attempt to convict.

  • 68_dodge_polara Apr 1, 2014

    The last place you can expect justice these days is in our broken criminal justice system.