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Durham man accused of carrying woman’s remains in backpack pleads guilty to manslaughter

DURHAM A man accused of killing a woman in Durham several years ago and carrying her remains in a backpack, pleaded guilty on Friday to voluntary manslaughter.

Michael Dorman, 35, was sentenced to at least 61 months in prison in the death of Lakiea Lacole Boxley. He will get credit for the nearly three years he has been incarcerated since his arrest.

Judge Orlando Hudson also ordered a mental health evaluation and any treatment for Dorman while he is in the state prison system.

The Dorman case was one of three that former Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline mentioned in a series of court documents filed in 2011 that were the underpinnings of a rare legal process used to remove her from elected office.

“I am not pleading guilty out of guilt but out of fear I won’t get an unbiased or fair trial,” Dorman said Friday in a hearing before Hudson.

Dorman’s plea, in which he did not admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence to lead a jury to that conclusion, came nearly two years after Hudson had dismissed his case.

In his 2011 dismissal, Hudson issued a 69-page order in which he accused the Durham County District Attorney’s Office, the Durham Police Department and the state medical examiner’s office of conspiring to destroy evidence and violating Dorman’s rights to a fair trial.

The appeals court judges sent the case back for trial, stating that Hudson erred by “prematurely concluding the defendant’s ability to prepare a defense was so irreparably prejudiced that a dismissal of the charge… was the only appropriate remedy.”

On Friday, the assistant district attorney who negotiated the plea agreement described it as a “compromise” for both sides.

Dorman was initially charged with concealing bones. Eventually, the charge was upgraded and he was accused of murdering Boxley, 31, who had been reported missing in Durham in 2008.

An autopsy determined that Boxley might have been shot in the head. Dorman told investigators in one interview that he only found the remains and planned to use them for his sexual gratification, according to court documents.

The man who alerted Orange County law enforcement officers told investigators that Dorman told him that he put a shotgun to the woman’s head after she refused to have sex with him and the gun went off accidentally.

Dorman, according to the informant, kept the remains at his father’s house until July 2010, when he loaded portions of the body into a backpack.

Boxley’s family cremated her remains shortly after Dorman was indicted, a move that sparked complaints against the district attorney and police by the defense team.

Dorman’s lawyers had asked that all evidence in the murder investigation be preserved – a standard request in many Durham County cases. But the defense had not specified an interest in the remains until after the medical examiner already had released the bones to the family and cremation had occurred.

Blythe: 919-836-4948
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