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'NO MATCH'

State investigators found that no DNA of any member of the Duke men's lacrosse team matches evidence obtained from a woman who claimed she was raped by three players at a March 13 party, defense lawyers said Monday.

The lawyers said they believe the case should be closed, although District Attorney Mike Nifong said Monday night that he will continue the investigation regardless of the DNA test results. No charges have been filed.

"I'm not saying it's over. If that's what they expect, they will be sadly disappointed," Nifong said at a Durham candidates' forum Monday night. "They can say anything they want, but I'm still in the middle of my investigation. I believe a sexual assault took place."

The lack of DNA evidence is the latest in a string of information that defense lawyers say casts some shadows on the alleged victim's claim that she was raped, choked and sodomized by three members of the lacrosse team in a bathroom at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.-a house leased by three members of the team.

"There was no sexual assault in this case," lawyer Wade Smith said Monday afternoon at a press conference in front the Durham County Court House. "We very much hope that with these announcements, and with this carefully prepared test, that perhaps this community can heal."

There was no foreign DNA present in or on the alleged victim's body-including her fingernails, which investigators found in the bathroom-on her belongings or on her clothes, lawyers said.

Investigators found no DNA of the alleged victim in the bathroom where the woman claimed the incident occurred, defense attorney Joe Cheshire added. The only DNA found in the bathroom matched that of two lacrosse players who live in the house.

State investigators compared evidence gathered from the alleged victim's body to DNA from cheek swabs that 46 of the 47 members of the lacrosse team provided 10 days after the incident.

"It is a false accusation. It has been used to tear this community apart," said Cheshire, who is representing 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. resident and senior lacrosse captain Dave Evans. "It's time for all of the healing to start."

The new information leaves a strained community questioning how to proceed.

The investigation began when an exotic dancer, a 27-year-old black student attending North Carolina Central University, claimed that three white members of the men's lacrosse team gang-raped her.

The University has already said it will investigate the many tensions sparked by the alleged incident. It also plans to examine the lacrosse team's culture and racial divides highlighted by epithets that neighbors said came from members of the team the night of the alleged rape.

Although the national media attention and community protests that the rape allegations have sparked may dwindle, broader issues of race, class, neighborhood relations and raucous partying will remain under the microscope.

"I'm not saying that underage drinking did not go on [at the party], that there wasn't excessive noise, that racial slurs were not used. Those things are all wide open and ought to be talked about," Cheshire said. "Unfortunately, people have meshed those things with this sexual assault and tried to make them one thing."

The players remained mostly quiet after their lawyers released the results Monday afternoon. Several declined to comment, asking a reporter to leave their residence hall section.

"We saw it coming," said junior Matt Danowski, the only player to speak to The Chronicle.

Three other players watched the news conference in Edens Dormitory, not far from sophomore team member Ryan McFadyen's room, which investigators searched March 27.

In response to the rape accusations, reports from neighbors and a related vulgar e-mail sent from McFadyen's account the night of the alleged assault, head coach Mike Pressler resigned, and Duke cancelled the men's lacrosse season and suspended McFadyen last week.

The defense, however, has pointed to McFadyen's e-mail as evidence that an assault did not occur. In the e-mail, he wrote he would invite other strippers to his dorm room that next night and skin and kill them.

"When people do something bad, they wouldn't be writing e-mails about it," Cheshire said when news of the e-mail broke last week.

Lawyers did not hesitate Monday to describe the emotional ordeal they say the players and and their family members continue to experience. Cheshire said one of his clients mothers has been having trouble eating and sleeping.

"This has been an absolute nightmare for these boys and their families," Cheshire said.

The lawyers also noted that the results of the DNA tests came as no shock to the players. Captains of the team "unequivocally" denied the accusations in a statement March 28.

"None of the boys are surprised in any way, shape, or form," Smith said about the results their lawyers told them about shortly before the press conference.

Forty-six players on the team underwent DNA tests March 23, after a judge issued a non-testimonial order forcing the players to comply or face criminal punishment.

March 27, the DNA was sent to the State Bureau of Investigation, which faxed the results to Nifong's office and made them available to police and lawyers Monday at 4 p.m.

Nifong said in a statement minutes before the news conference that it would be inappropriate for him to release the results but that any of the multiple attorneys representing players were free publicize them. The attorneys did not do so, however, choosing only to comment on the results.

Despite the lawyers' assertions that the DNA exonerates the lacrosse players, details from the alleged victim's account continue to trouble many members of the Duke and Durham communities.

The players are under investigation for first degree forcible rape, first degree kidnapping, first degree forcible sexual assault, common law robbery and felonious strangulation.

According to a search warrant issued for the Buchanan Boulevard residence, the alleged victim and a second woman made an appointment to dance at the house March 13. Once they started dancing, shortly after 11:30 p.m., the men became "excited and aggressive," the report said.

"The victim and her fellow dancer decided to leave because they were concerned about their safety," the warrant stated.

When the dancers were getting into their vehicle, neighbors said they heard party-goers yell racial slurs at the women. One of the three suspects allegedly apologized and convinced the pair to come back inside-shortly thereafter, the two women were separated.

According to the warrant, two men then pulled the alleged victim into a bathroom, where three men raped, choked and sodomized her for approximately 30 minutes.

Nifong said March 28 that he was convinced a rape occurred, citing testimony from a nurse who examined the woman that she had "injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted vaginally and anally," according to a search warrant.

In addition to repeatedly stating that the DNA results would prove their clients' innocence, the defense team pointed to inconsistencies in 911 tapes from the night of March 13, questioning the motives and identities of the callers-one of whom claimed that men in Buchanan Boulevard house hurled racial slurs at her.

Several lawyers also said they have time-stamped pictorial evidence that the woman had bruises on her body before she started dancing. After the two women stopped dancing, the players' lawyers said the women locked themselves in the bathroom-where the alleged rape occurred-for about 27 minutes.

Photographs taken after the gap show the woman smiling and wearing a negligee that Cheshire said shows no signs of damage or violence, Cheshire told local press.

The lawyers said they have no immediate plans to release the photos.

Jared Mueller, David Graham, Gregory Beaton and Ryan McCartney contributed to this story.

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