GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The fate of a man charged with murdering an East Kentwood High School student is now in the hands of a jury.
Jury deliberations began Wednesday afternoon in the trial of Quinn James.
James was convicted last year of raping Mujey Dumbuya when she was 15 years old. She was set to testify against James in the sexual assault trial when she disappeared on Jan. 24, 2018 on her way to catch a bus to school. The 16-year-old girl’s body was found four days later about 50 miles away near a trail in Kalamazoo. A doctor said Mujey had been strangled.
James, 43, is charged with first-degree murder in Mujey’s death.
Another key piece of evidence was a car police say James rented that was spotted on a trail camera the day Mujey went missing near where her body was found. The rental car was washed, returned to the dealer and ultimately sold to someone in Zeeland, but Mujey’s blood was still found in two places on the seat.
“Whoever dumped the body did it in this vehicle and it just happens to be the vehicle the defendant rented,” Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki told the jury.
The jury also heard from Wanda Minor of Detroit, who was dating Gerald Bennett at the time of Mujey’s death. Police believe Bennett was James’ accomplice in the murder and that his price was a 1985 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. They say Bennett tried to hide the car from investigators by giving it to Minor as a birthday present.
Prosecutors said cellphone tower records showed James and his co-defendant were at Mujey’s bus stop and apartment complex the night before her disappearance, proving the murder was orchestrated.
In closing arguments, prosecutors played phone calls from James in which he talked about hoping Mujey died.
“Hopefully, hopefully she go on vacation and her plane crash,” he is heard saying.
James talked about being stressed about the rape case and said how he enjoyed his freedom too much to be locked away.
The prosecution also said the alibi James gave his girlfirend to write down was a “script” telling her where she was and wehere he was.
“The evidence in this case is overwhelming,” Koncki said.
James’ defense team argued investigators didn’t look for anyone else or pursue other leads in the case because they decided from the beginning that James killed Mujey. Investigators denied the claim.
The defense also threw out the theory that Mujey wasn’t kidnapped, but rather left on her own.
“So she tells two individuals that she is going to run away, and she does,” James’ attorney Jonathan Schildgen said.
But the prosecutor pointed out that Mujey’s backpack found on the side of northbound US-131 was filled with school books, not clothing and cherished items.
“Something wouldn’t fit if he didn’t do it, but everything fits,” Koncki said.
Jury deliberations lasted about 90 minutes Wednesday before the judge ended the proceedings for the day. Deliberations are expected to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
James is already serving 20 to 30 years in prison for sexually assaulting the girl.