KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of 16-year-old rape and homicide victim Mujey Dumbuya is demanding answers from prosecutors after learning her alleged rapist was accused in a sexual assault four years earlier.
Quinn James, 42, the man accused of raping the East Kentwood High School student last year, was a maintenance worker for the district.
Police are trying to determine if he had anything to do with Dumbuya’s death.
Dumbuya’s family wants to know why prosecutors are charging him now for the crime and didn’t charge him back then.
“My question is why?” Dumbuya’s aunt, Jainya Sannoh, said of the lack of charges in 2014. “You know, because if they would have charged him back then, then probably this wouldn’t have been happening.”
The 18-year-old victim in that case says she called 911 in June 2014, the night James attacked her in his apartment. She said she was a former student at Ottawa Hills High School and had known James about a year.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said his office didn’t have enough evidence to file charges at the time. He refused to say what, if any, new evidence led him to charge James four years later.
“I’m not really putting blames on anybody for not doing it,” Dumbuya’s aunt said. “They probably have their reasons for not doing it at that point in time. They probably now have a reason why they want to do it at this point in time.”
James’ attorney has said he believes there’s no new evidence and that prosecutors are holding him “illegally” while investigating Dumbuya’s death.
A judge last week ordered James to stand trial in that case after the victim testified.
Dumbuya’s aunt said she also wants to know what Kentwood schools knew and when about the 2014 allegations. By that time, James had been working three years at Kentwood Public Schools, which had given him a second chance after convictions for armed robbery and weapons.
“I think the information is very important and I think people should know,” Sannoh said.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, she took the podium to speak for her niece.
“We as family had the right to know about his past criminal record once Mujey reported the issue to the school,” Sannoh said. “Was the school aware of Mr. Quinn’s criminal background when Mujey’s case came up last year, November? And if so, if the school knew about it, why did the school fail to inform me or us as a family about his criminal background?”
Earlier Monday, Kentwood Schools Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff told 24 Hour News 8 that the district learned only recently about the 2014 allegations. If it had known back then, he said, it would have triggered an internal investigation.
When asked after Monday night’s board meeting why James was hired given his criminal record, Zoerhoff replied, “It’s a good question.”
“I think we’ve provided a statement (PDF) on that before and we’d be glad to do that again, to provide any of you with a statement of what we passed out before,” he continued.
Pressed to comment further, Zoerhoff said, “Well, again, I think the most difficult part of this is a criminal investigation going on and we wouldn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize law enforcement.”
He did say a letter never went out to parents after the alleged assault involving Dumbuya in an effort to protect her.
“One of the things you try to do is keep it confidential for the students. We want to make sure that Mujey, that her identity was kept private,” he said.
The district also said it would be willing to meet with the Dumbuya family privately, which the family said it would be open to in the near future.
Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young, whose department investigated the old case, said the department knew James worked for the school but didn’t inform the district because the victim wasn’t a Kentwood student. She said prosecutors would have been required to tell the district if charges were filed.
In the case involving Dumbuya, James was accused of raping her repeatedly last year, starting when she was 15. School officials have said the suspect and victim didn’t meet through school.
Family members have said they’re not yet prepared to accuse James of the murder.
“I just want people to get to the bottom of it, to bring the person to justice who did this to my niece,” her aunt said. “That’s all I want. The rest has already happened and my niece is dead, and that’s not going to change the fact.”