Durham, N.C. — The house where an exotic dancer claimed she was raped more than four years ago by three Duke University lacrosse players was demolished Monday – a move some called a fresh start while others said it is erasing the past.
The unassuming white structure at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., owned by Duke, was the setting of a firestorm of public and media scrutiny and national debate about race and privilege that led to the downfall of a veteran prosecutor.
Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, said the university decided to tear down the house months ago because it had fallen into disrepair.
"It was an eyesore in the neighborhood, and we had a decision of either investing a lot of money into a structure that any reasonable person would want to tear down because of the condition or tearing it down," he said.
The decision, he said, had nothing to do with the rape case, but he acknowledged it is also a way to help the university heal.
"That house has been a symbol, for better or worse, of a period of time and incidences within the university, within the city, nationally," he added. "So, while the decision to tear it down was not made for any symbolic reasons, certainly there will be people who will be relieved to see it gone."
The house remained vacant since Crystal Mangum, a North Carolina Central University student who was working as a stripper, claimed three white players trapped her inside one of the house's bathrooms and raped and sexually assaulted her at a party on the night of March 13, 2006.
The three players were indicted and arrested on rape and other charges on the basis of her allegations, but North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed the case more than a year later after special prosecutors found no credible evidence to support Mangum's claims.
Mike Nifong, who was the Durham County district attorney at the time, was disbarred and later resigned after 30 years in the Durham prosecutor's office, because of his handling of the case.
He later spent a night in jail after a judge held him in criminal contempt for willfully making false statements about the case in court.
"It's a reminder of the past that some people don't want to be reminded of," rising Duke senior Emily Fausch said. "So, it's a good thing that it's going. It's like a fresh start, I guess."
Others, like Manju Rajendran, however, said they believe Duke's decision was erasing an important story for Durham.
”We believe the demolition is a form of force forgetting, a way of trying to erase the story of what's happened here," she said.
A representative of the local women's group, Ubuntu, Rajendran said she would have liked to have seen a resource space for sex workers and survivors of violence.
"We are not going to forget what's happened here," she said. "It's very charged land."
Duke purchased the house at 610 N. Buchanan, along with several others, a few months prior to Mangum's allegations, in an effort to revitalize two neighborhoods bordering the campus, Schoenfeld said.
It was in such bad shape, he said, it most likely would have been condemned earlier, had the criminal case not happened.
He said the university doesn't know what it will do with the property, but a decision could come soon.
Meanwhile, Mangum was in a Durham court Monday asking a judge to change conditions of her bond release on charges she faces that stem from a domestic dispute earlier this year in which she allegedly threatened to stab her boyfriend and set his clothes on fire.
Durham police arrested Mangum Feb. 18 on charges that include attempted first-degree murder, arson and misdemeanor child abuse. She's been out of jail since May on a $100,000 bond but has been under house arrest at a friend's home.
Mangum had asked to released from house arrest to take care of her mother and to work. Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan granted the request but placed her on electronic monitoring instead.
In a news conference last month, she said that the Duke lacrosse case is making it difficult for her to be fairly treated by the justice system.
"I am being unfairly treated due to preconceived notions that people had about me concerning another case," Mangum said.