Local News

Botched Evidence Sets Accused Attacker Free

Posted July 26, 2000

— Battered and bruised, one woman has spent years trying to keep her accused abuser behind bars in Durham. However, he walked out of jail Thursday, set free thanks to a technician who might have botched dozens of cases.

Two years ago, Yvonne Walker was beaten up and left for dead. Four months pregnant at the time, she spent nearly two months in a coma.

Walker thought prosecutors had an airtight case against the man accused of beating her -- she found out she was wrong. A Durham judge threw out her case Thursday because of botched evidence.

She was too distraught to talk, but in May, Walker said she was lucky to be alive.

"I was sentenced to death, but God picked me up out of this apartment, and said, 'No, I won't let you have her,'" she said.

Durham police technician Bruce Preiss threw away key pieces of evidence in the case. Walker's sister, Cheryl Kearney, says Preiss also threw away the family's only shot at justice.

"Because the law which was supposed to protect us was against us and putting holes in our case every time we turned around," Kearney says.

Durham District Attorney Jim Hardin says Preiss may have affected at least a dozen other cases.

"The ones we have looked at -- that I have particular concern about -- are violent crimes," Hardin says.

Walker has endured hours of physical therapy. Thursday's decision was a blow to the entire family.

"She was hoping to win this case so she could put her life back together again," Kearney says. "But now it feels like we're starting all over again."

Preiss is on paid leave. TheDurham Police Departmenthas just wrapped up an internal investigation. Results should be released next week.

The suspect in the Walker case, Bryant Strothers, has always maintained his innocence. He was released from the Durham County jail Thursday night.

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