Mom says Detroit cops wrong to arrest son in sex crimes

Candice Williams, Holly Fournier, and Mark Hicks

Detroit — An 18-year-old man suspected in at least three sexual assaults was taken into custody Friday afternoon on the city’s east side.

But Darian Lee Winfield’s relatives vehemently deny the accusations, saying the teen was apprehended while en route to a police precinct to clear his name after media reports that police were looking for him.

“He’s a model student, he works, he goes to school,” his mother, Anita Pace, told The Detroit News on Friday night. “It’s not him. They have the wrong person.”

Winfield was picked up by police within hours of authorities releasing his identity. He was seen driving in the 5900 block of Harrell on the east side.

“A traffic stop was conducted and he was taken into custody without incident,” police said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Winfield, considered armed and dangerous, was growing increasingly violent, Police Chief James Craig said at a news conference Friday.

Craig said he would not go into details on how police arrived at Winfield as a suspect. He has not yet been charged with any crime.

In each incident, Winfield allegedly broke into a home while his female victim slept, police said. Each incident occurred within a one-mile radius, in an area near the Grosse Pointes, between midnight and 5 a.m.

The first attempted rape occurred Dec. 18 in the 5000 block of Haverhill. A second attempted rape and stabbing was Dec. 30 in the 5800 block of Radnor. The most recent known attack occurred early Thursday morning in the 5300 block of Radnor. One of the victims remained in the hospital Friday in critical condition, Craig said.

Craig said police are not certain if Winfield was involved in a stabbing attack last month in Grosse Pointe Park.

“We are looking at other cases outside of the city he may or not be connected to,” he said.

Winfield’s mother questioned the conclusion, saying the teen does not match the description of the suspect police distributed this week and investigators failed to find evidence at her home or his apartment positively linking him to the crimes.

Unlike the suspect, she said, Winfield “doesn’t have any piercings — not one,” is heavier and taller — with a height of about 6 feet 3 inches — and has a noticeably lighter complexion.

The teen, who turns 19 this month, attends East English Village Preparatory Academy and works as a packer in Macomb County, Pace said. He also volunteers at a soup kitchen, goes to church and has a girlfriend, leaving little time for much else, she said. “He was doing what he needed to do for himself. He’s not a bad guy at all.”

Police said Winfield has a history of violence. He was given probation for a previous conviction of assault with intent to do great bodily harm in an incident last year involving a 17-year-old girl, Craig said. That incident was not sexual in nature.

Pace said the incident involved the girl kicking her door in and disputed police’s characterization of her son. “Darian is a very calm young man, very laid-back. ... He’s a charmer and women love him.”

Police believe Winfield lives in the area where the attacks took place.

Pace said she thinks his close proximity to the sites led police to mark him as a suspect. “They have the wrong person but they’re trying to build a case.”

Winfield’s family has since retained an attorney and are working to defend him.

“We are hoping and praying to clear his name because he’s innocent and he would never do this,” she said.

Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to contact Detroit police Special Victims Unit at (313) 596-1950. Anonymous tipsters may leave a tip on the department’s app, “DPD Connect,” or call Crime Stoppers of Michigan and (800) SPEAK-UP.

(313) 222-2311