Durham Man Arrested for 2015 Sexual Assault on the Ellerbe Creek Trail
Durham police investigators have arrested Emanuel Dwayne Burch and charged him in connection with a November 2015 sexual assault on the Ellerbe Creek Trail.
Burch, 32, was charged with first-degree sexual assault and attempted first-degree murder in connection with this case.
A woman told officers she was walking home from work and entered the Ellerbe Creek Trail near West Trinity Avenue around 6 p.m. on November 11, 2015. She was walking on the trail near Dacian Avenue when a man approached her from behind, choked her into unconsciousness and pulled her into the woods, where he sexually assaulted her. The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Investigators worked on the case for several years, but did not have any strong leads until last fall. Investigators sent the DNA profile obtained from the sexual assault evidence collection kit from this case in for testing. On September 9, 2019, investigators learned that the DNA profile matched a DNA profile in the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database, which was linked to Burch. In October, investigators obtained a search warrant and collected a DNA sample from Burch. This DNA sample was sent to the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory for comparison to the DNA profile obtained from the evidence collection kit from the Ellerbe Creek case.
On January 16, 2020, DPD investigators were told that the known DNA sample from Burch was a confirmed match to the DNA profile from the Ellerbe Creek case. True bills of indictment for Burch were issued on January 17 and he was arrested on January 22 in Chapel Hill. Burch has been placed in the Durham County Jail under a $500,000 bond.
DPD investigators are working with investigators from other agencies to determine if Burch may have been involved in other cases.
Fast Facts about DPD Cold Case Sexual Assault Investigations:
- In the fall of 2019, the Durham Police Department was awarded a three-year $1 million 2019 National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) project grant to provide additional resources for investigating cold case sexual assaults.
- The grant, which is awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice Programs (OJP) through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), is providing resources to ensure that a complete victim-centered approach is taken during the investigation, prosecution and healing process for survivors of cold case sexual assaults.
- With the receipt of the SAKI grant, the DPD’s Cold Case Sexual Assault Investigations has grown from one assigned investigator to two full time investigators and a lieutenant. The department is currently in the process of hiring a full time victim’s advocate and is awaiting the hiring of a full time assistant district attorney, through the Durham County District Attorney’s Office. These two positions will work directly with DPD’s Cold Case Sexual Assault Investigations in a collaborative effort to bring closure to unresolved investigations related to sexual assault.
- In addition, the SAKI grant provides funds for training, travel and equipment as well as assistance for the Durham Crisis Response Center (DCRC).
- The Durham Police Department began addressing its backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits in 2017 when the North Carolina State Crime Lab asked each department to conduct an inventory of their untested kits. The DPD examined its inventory and determined it had 1,711 untested sexual assault evidence kits in its possession. The DPD began submitting the untested kits to the N.C. State Crime Lab in 2018.
- On December 19, 2019, the Durham Police Department received an “Agency Kit Inventory Certification” from the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory. This certification added the DPD to the list of agencies in North Carolina that have completed entering their entire initial inventory of un-submitted sexual assault evidence collection kits into the North Carolina Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Tracking System and Information Management System (STIMS).
- Of the 294 DPD evidence kits sent to outsourcing, 65 have resulted in CODIS eligible DNA profiles and 47 CODIS hits. In addition to the arrest of Emanuel Burch, five additional cold case investigations have resulted in arrests and five additional cases are in the comparison testing phase. This is a direct result of the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory’s outsourcing initiative.
- All unfounded investigations related to untested sexual assault kits are currently under review.