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Mecklenburg DA won’t order outside review of Myers Park rape, sexual assault cases

Won’t answer questions about confidence in CMPD investigation
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said he will not order an outside review of reported rapes and sexual assaults at Myers Park High School by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.

Merriweather, through a spokeswoman, refused to answer questions about whether he had confidence that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department appropriately investigated six reported cases of rape and sexual assault that have been detailed in WBTV investigations.

The six women who reported their cases to both police and administrators said they had little or no follow-up from police. In one case, WBTV has confirmed, a CMPD school resource officer assigned to Myers Park didn’t even fill out a police report detailing the reported rape.

Related: ‘They made me feel worse’: Former Myers Park HS students question CMPD response to rape reports

Despite that, Merriweather’s spokeswoman said, he did not see a need for an outside investigation.

“I have not learned anything to date which leads me to believe an SBI investigation is warranted in this matter,” the statement said. “If I do learn more, I’ll make that determination if it’s appropriate.”

But one former local prosecutor, who now works in private practice as a criminal defense attorney, questioned why CMPD didn’t take basic steps to investigate the reported rapes and sexual assaults, including having the students participate in a forensic interview.

“There’s trained social workers. There are trained interviewers that are meant not to lead the alleged victims down a path of saying certain things happened but, at the same time, acknowledging the complications with talking to a sexual assault victim, or somebody that’s reporting that,” Jeremy Smith, the former local prosecutor said.

None of the six women who spoke with WBTV about their reported rape or sexual assault participated in a forensic interview.

A CMPD spokesman declined a request to answer questions on camera for this story but said in a statement that anyone under 15 needs parental consent before a forensic interview can take place.

“A forensic interview may not be appropriate for every victim/survivor and each investigation is managed individually,” CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said.

Previous: More women detail reported rape, assault at Myers Park as school leaders remain silent

Smith said such interviews can be crucial in sexual assault cases, especially if the incidents were reported after physical evidence was gone.

“The forensic interview is done in most of the cases that I have been familiar with as a prosecutor,” he said. “That’s one of the most important parts of it.”

Smith said that, in his time as a prosecutor, sexual assault cases were among the toughest cases to charge and required extensive investigation by police.

“It sounds like, here, it never got past step one,” he said.

Previous: CMS failed to track reported rapes, assaults on campus

Prosecutors would have a hard time bringing charges now, Smith said, because of CMPD’s inadequate investigation when the cases were first reported.

“It’s a lose-lose situation for a DA dealing with something like this,” Smith said.

“It’s much better if it’s just done right from the beginning and everything is presented in the way that it is supposed to be to the district attorney, and then they do their job.”

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