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Police search dorm in rape investigation

District Attorney Mike Nifong and the Durham Police Department provided details Wednesday that paint a fuller picture of the investigation surrounding the alleged rape involving members of the Duke men's lacrosse team.

John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, confirmed Wednesday that police searched a dorm room on campus after procuring a search warrant Monday. No further details of the search were disclosed because the warrant is sealed.

Kammie Michael, public information officer for DPD, said police have served two search warrants in connection with the case, including the one issued March 16 for 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., where the incident allegedly occurred. Nifong said he was unaware of the on-campus search.

No formal charges had been issued as of Wednesday evening.

Police initiated the investigation after a March 13 party at which three members of the lacrosse team allegedly raped, sodomized and strangled the victim, one of two exotic dancers hired to perform at the party.

The victim claimed the men were getting "excited and aggressive" when she and her companion were dancing. The frightened women left the house but were approached by one member of the team, who urged them to return.

The victim's account, according to the warrant, stated that the two dancers were separated once inside the house.

Nifong, however, said Wednesday that the second woman never re-entered the dwelling, adding that she stayed at her car because partygoers were talking to her while the alleged victim entered the house alone.

Michael said DPD investigators have located and interviewed the other woman but would not release details of her account. Michael said the second dancer was the person who drove the alleged victim to the Kroger grocery store on Hillsborough Road, where a store security guard called 911.

Nifong also said the police contacted lacrosse head coach Mike Pressler and asked if the players would voluntarily submit to DNA testing. A meeting was set, but an attorney subsequently contacted the police to cancel the appointment, Nifong explained.

DPD then obtained an order to mandate the DNA testing of 46 of the 47 members of the team.

Both Nifong and Michael said three members of the lacrosse team-the residents of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.-voluntarily submitted to police questioning and suspect testing after the first warrant was issued.

Two of the three men questioned and tested were not named by the alleged victim in the warrant.

In a statement from the lacrosse team captains issued Tuesday, they denied that rape or sexual assault took place.

"The team has cooperated with the police in their investigation," the statement read. "The DNA results will demonstrate that these allegations are absolutely false."

But Nifong maintained that he is convinced a sexual assault occurred based on the findings of the victim's emergency room examination.

"The statements that [the team] makes are inconsistent with the physical evidence in this case," he said. "They don't want to admit to the enormity of what they've done."

Police are investigating the incident as first-degree forcible rape, common law robbery, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual offense and felonious strangulation. First-degree forcible rape and first-degree sexual offense are both B1 felonies-the second-highest felony rating in North Carolina, behind first-degree murder.

Nifong said he would not pursue the incident as a hate crime, despite reports by neighbors that they heard numerous racial epithets. He said the crimes already carry severe enough penalties that the added sentence associated with the hate crime is inconsequential.

"Basically it would just be one more thing to prove, and it would not help me in any fashion," Nifong explained. "But I do intend to present evidence of those statements because they had to do with the state of mind of the people who were involved."

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