Local News

Cremation could clear man charged with carrying bones in bag

Posted August 15, 2011 12:15 p.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2011 6:32 p.m. EDT

— A Mebane man accused of killing a woman and carrying her bones around in a backpack could be cleared of wrongdoing because her family later cremated the remains.

Michael Charles Dorman, 33, of 1411 Sundown Drive, is charged with murder and concealing or failing to report a death.

Durham police arrested Dorman in July 2010 after one of his friends told investigators that Dorman admitted to killing a prostitute and asked him to help dispose of her remains.

Dorman had been storing Lakiea Lacole Boxley’s bones in a backpack, prosecutors have said, adding that he told investigators he only found the remains and planned to use them for his sexual gratification.

Boxley, 31, had been missing since March 2008, and an autopsy determined that she might have been shot in the head.

Defense attorney Lawrence Campbell has asked that the case be dismissed because critical evidence – Boxley's remains – has been destroyed.

The state Victims Compensation Services office paid more than $2,700 for the cremation, and Campbell pointed out during a Monday court hearing that local law enforcement must determine that a victim is innocent before the state agency will pick up the tab for something like that.

Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said the state agency has nothing to do with investigations and doesn't get permission from prosecutors to pay for cremations. Remains are routinely released to family members, and the State Medical Examiner's Office provides an autopsy report and photographs needed for court, she said.

A victim's advocate in the Durham Police Department and investigators with the department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office all testified that they never recommended cremation to Boxley's family.

Durham homicide detective Chris Robinson said he contacted Boxley's sister in South Carolina after Boxley's identity was confirmed through dental records, but he didn't discuss funeral arrangements.

"In the time that you have been working as a law enforcement officer and particularly as a homicide investigator, have you ever suggested to a family or told them they need to cremate the remains of their loved one?” Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline asked Robinson.

"No," he replied.

Campbell said a court order was issued in the case to preserve evidence, but Robinson said it was issued after the remains had been returned to Boxley's family.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson could rule on the case Tuesday.