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Suspect to be tried in 1984 rape, murder of Detroit girl

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Chilling words detailing the brutal rape and slaying of a Detroit school girl 35 years ago were read into testimony inside a Detroit courtroom Thursday by a police investigator who said the words came from the man charged with killing the teen.

Kennith James Dupree allegedly confessed to Detroit Police investigator Ira Todd last month and signed a three-page statement saying he attacked, raped and murdered 16-year-old honor student Michelle Jackson in January 1984 as she walked to a bus stop on Fenkell near Wildemere to make her way to Murray-Wright High School.

Kennith James Dupree during his preliminary examination on charges stemming from the rape and murder of 16-year-old Michelle Jackson in 1984.

The attack against Jackson was among a rash of rapes of Detroit girls that sent shock waves through the city and local public schools that year.

After Thursday's testimony, Judge Michael Wagner ordered Dupree, 72, to be tried for murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is to be arraigned Nov. 21 in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Dupree was videotaped Oct. 8, 2019, allegedly telling Todd how he murdered the girl inside an abandoned, garbage-strewn garage during a drunken "sexual rage."

In 36th District Court, Todd read a statement he said belonged to Dupree, who said he had been drinking when he saw Jackson, who was carrying books, and that he grabbed her and held a kitchen knife to her throat.

Jackson, according to the confession, begged: "Let me go. Leave me alone," before she was killed.

"She wouldn't stop yelling or crying; that's when I started strangling her," Dupree said, according to the statement Todd read. "I started choking her with my hands and then I used tights that I took off of her to strangle her."

Michelle Jackson was last seen around 6:30 a.m. Jan. 24, 1984, when she said goodbye to her second cousin, whom she was living with, and walked to a bus stop to go to school.

The cousin, Jodie Kenney, testified Thursday that she became concerned when Jackson did not arrive home that afternoon as expected.

'I said, 'I can't sit any longer. I gotta go look for her," said a tearful Kenney.

The next morning, Kenney, Jackson's mom, another female relative and Kenney's boyfriend went looking for the missing girl near the bus stop on Fenkell near Wildemere.

It was Kenney who found her young cousin's body, with flowered white thermal tights wrapped tightly around her neck; the girl was naked from the waist down.

The  cause and manner of death was strangulation, according to a report read in court Thursday by Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Victoria Shackelford.

Authorities obtained a Combined DNA Index System hit tying Dupree to the girl's rape and murder July 24, 2017. No details were given in court Thursday about when Dupree was arrested and why two years passed before police questioned him last month.

Todd said during his statement, Dupree said he didn't know why another man, Eddie Joe Lloyd, had confessed to the crime.

"I don't him or why he would have confessed to something that I had done," Todd said Dupree told him last month. Innocence Project investigators say Lloyd's confession was fed to him and coerced.

Lloyd spent 17 1/2 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2002 through DNA and with the assistance of the Innocence Project.

Lloyd, who was receiving psychiatric treatment during the time he was charged with the girl's rape and murder,  died two years after he was exonerated.

Todd said Dupree wrote that "I can't explain how wrong in my mind I was to take your daughter's life. ... perhaps in time you may forgive me. But I never forgive myself (for) what I took from your daughter."

In binding over Dupree for trial, Wagner said there is identification of DNA that Dupree left  at the scene of Jackson's rape and murder and that the defendant described with "particular specificity" how the girl died, which coincided with evidence from the scene.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com 

(313) 222-2027