Slain girl’s family wants answers from police, school

Mujey Dumbuya's aunts remember her as affectionate and confident

Mujey Dumbuya
Mujey Dumbuya's aunts, Jainya Sannoh (left) and Haja Corneh. (Feb. 13, 2018)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With her funeral over, the family of Mujey Dumbuya is remembering her as vibrant and happy even as they continue to hope for answers about who murdered her.

Dumbuya was killed weeks before she was set to testify against Quinn James in a rape case. James, a former employee of Kentwood Public Schools, will face trial in April on four counts of criminal sexual conduct against Dumbuya when she was 15. He faces 25 years to life in prison.

Her aunts, Haja Corneh and Jainya Sannoh, are speaking for the family because they say the 16-year-old girl’s mother and siblings are devastated.

While they believe James raped their niece, they are still waiting to decide about who committed the murder.

“The family is not making any assumptions about who committed the kidnapping and murder,” their attorney Christine Yared said Tuesday.

The family wants to know why Kentwood Public Schools hired James despite his criminal background that included an armed robbery conviction. They also want the district to stop allegedly discouraging employees from discussing the case. Yared says school district employees have told them the administration is telling employees to keep quiet.

“We urge Kentwood Public Schools to follow their legal and moral obligation to encourage and not prohibit all their employees to be able to discuss information they have about Mujey any suspects without any fear of discipline or loss of employment,” Yared said Tuesday.

Photo: Quinn James speaks via video from the Kent County jail on Feb. 10, 2018.

James was previously investigated for but not charged in a 2014 rape. However, after Dumbuya’s body was found in Kalamazoo in January, James was arrested in that 2014 case. He remained in the Kent County jail Tuesday. In a jailhouse interview with 24 Hour News 8 over the weekend, he denied raping Dumbuya and said he didn’t have anything to do with her murder.

Her aunts want people to know about who Dumbuya was.

“Mujey was full of life. She made people smile, even if you have difficult times, she would just come to you and hug you,” Corneh said. “She always said, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a superstar someday.’”

Dumbuya’s parents fled war-torn Liberia for Sierra Leone, where Dumbuya was born as a refugee. Before long, they had to flee that country, too. The United Nations and United States refugee services placed Dumbuya’s family in Kentwood when she was a toddler.

“We have lived in fear for most of our lives and that’s why we are here,” Sannoh said. “But whenever I close my eyes, I still think about the tragedy that we went through and now here is another tragedy that we are going through again.”

She said they are trusting police and they are eager for closure.

“As a family, we are a little bit impatient, because we want to know what really happened and we need all these answers and that’s just being human,” Sannoh said. “People think it’s just Mujey’s family, but it’s not just Mujey’s family, it’s a community thing.”

She said the school district needs to come forward.

“What are they going to do so that this doesn’t happen to another girl?” she wondered. “What are they going to do to keep our girls and our women safe?”

Poet Ted Jauw was moved by Dumbuya’s plight and wrote a poem:

They laid Mujey in the ground today
But they did not lay her to Rest
The Justice she sought for others in Life
Eluding her in Death
The papers plead from Sea to Sea
Who took her life of sixteen Years?
America, what did you See?
A nation shining back only glistening Tears
Tears for Mujey, surely, but really for you and Me
You see…
Mujey’s story is not her Own
In one young Girl
The nation Knows
That we are One
And not Alone
For she is like you, MeToo,
A Black Life That Matters
And though she came here Legally
She is a Dreamer through and Through
Mujey is America
Mujey is me and You
She is a Dreamer through and Through
Mujey is America
Mujey is me and You
A refugee brought to this Shore
An immigrant from Sierra Leone
A daughter of Fatima
A daughter who lost a Father
Whose crime was going Home
A child who escaped certain Death
Only to find it Here
A child much like Your Own
A child who broke her Silence
A child who faced her Fears
A child who faced her Killer
A child but beyond her Years
A child who is America
Despite what others claim
She is what makes America Great
Not again but Always and the same
Mujey is America in its Best and now at its worst
Mujey is an America that knew both hunger and knew thirst
Mujey is America even more than those who think that they are first
Mujey is America both the Beautiful and America the cursed
America, the beautiful, she shed her grace on thee
America, you promised her
If she were brave
She would be free…

Through tears, Corneh said: “It’s the most beautiful thing I ever heard. It’s as if she is standing right here.”

A GoFundMe account has been started in Dumbuya’s name, with the funds going to her family so they can pay their attorney to help them throughout the investigation process.

Anyone with information about Dumbuya’s case is asked to contact Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.