GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of raping a 16-year-old East Kentwood High School student who was later found dead had a felony record when he was hired by the district, and school officials knew about it.
When Quinn James was hired as a groundskeeper by Kentwood Public Schools six years ago, his criminal record included convictions for a 1991 armed robbery in Grand Rapids and two counts of prisoner in possession of a weapon from 2003. Despite the record, Kentwood Public Schools Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff said in an email that “James was hired because he fit the qualifications for working as a groundskeeper.”
Zoerhoff said James brought strong references from community members when he applied for the position, which did not include interaction with students. James focused on delivering documents and caring for the grounds and facilities.
Then, last year, James was charged with raping Mujey Dumbuya, who was 15 at the time. There were allegedly four sexual assaults at locations in Wyoming, Kentwood and Grand Rapids. Police say James admitted to what he called “consensual” sex with the girl at his home on McKee Avenue SW in Wyoming.
Zoerhoff said James did not meet Dumbuya because of his work for the district. Rather, they met during summer break through social media, which was facilitated by a high school student from Saginaw.
As soon as the district learned of the charges against James, the superintendent says, he was fired and the school worked with authorities to bring charges against him.
James would have gone to trial in April. Dumbuya was set to testify against him.
He was free on a $100,000 bond when Dumbuya went missing Jan. 24. Her body was found in Kalamazoo Jan. 28, and James was arrested again on Feb. 1 on an unrelated 2014 criminal sexual conduct charge.
The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office had not tried James in the 2014 case because there wasn’t enough evidence. The alleged victim in that case says he raped her in the apartment where he used to live and threatened to kill her, choking her until she stopped struggling. On Thursday, Kent County Prosecutor Chis Becker would not say what had changed that made the 2014 case viable now.
James, 42, remains in jail charged as four-time felony offender. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.
Kalamazoo police said Wednesday he was not being considered a person of interest in Dumbuya’s murder, but that investigators were taking a hard look at him.
Dumbaya’s family has hired attorney Christine Yared, who is in the process of investigating the school’s response to this situation.
The family was too heartbroken to talk about her on camera Thursday, but they did release this statement:
“We are heartbroken, devastated and overwhelmed with grief over the death of our beloved daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece and cousin.
“Mujey was a generous, energetic young woman with a radiant smile and an adventurous spirit.
“Mujey was a very good student who loved school. She had a close circle of friends, and was loved by everyone that knew her. Mujey loved music and dancing. She took classes in dance, martial arts and archery. Mujey was looking forward to graduating from high school next year. She wanted to be a police officer to help fight against social injustice, including racism.
“We ask that everyone, including those in the media, respect our request for privacy as we mourn Mujey’s death. We also ask that the media refrain from publishing photographs and video of the children in our family. Their safety and sense of security is our most urgent concern. Thank you.”