Duke lacrosse rape accuser found guilty of second-degree murder

Katie McHugh Associate Editor
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A jury convicted Crystal Gail Magnum, famous for accusing three Duke lacrosse players of raping her in a bathroom in 2007, of second-degree murder for the brutal 2011 stabbing death of her boyfriend Reginald Daye.

Magnum will serve a minimum of 14 years in prison.

In her most recent court appearance, Magnum claimed Daye dragged her from her bathroom by the hair and, fearing for her life, she stabbed him in self-defense. But before he died of complications from his wounds, Daye told investigators Magnum attacked him with a knife before stabbing him in the chest, the News Observer reports.

The jury dismissed charges of larceny leveled at Magnum, who was also accused of stealing $700 in cashier’s checks from Daye.

Daye’s family expressed gratitude for Magnum’s guilty verdict.

“We’re just grateful that justice was served for Reggie today, for his family and his friends. We just thank everybody that played a part and thank God. We’re just happy,” said Daye’s sister, Cynthia Wilson.

Behind Magnum trails a long rap sheet of criminal charges, false accusations and signs of a troubled life.

In 1996, Magnum filed a police report claiming that three men had kidnapped and raped her three years prior, but later backed away from the charges. That same year, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy. The next year she began her active duty and married Nathaniel McNeill.

But in 1998, she accused McNeill of forcibly taking her to an isolated area of the California woods and threatening to kill her. Charges against McNeill, who denied the incident took place, were dismissed after Magnum failed to appear in court.

Seventeen months later, McNeill and Magnum divorced — Magnum became pregnant after engaging in an affair with another sailor and was subsequently discharged from the Navy.

By June of 2002, Magnum had switched careers and became a stripper, earning 10 charges after stealing a taxi from a customer during a lap dance, driving at speeds of 70 miles per hour down the wrong side of the road to evade police, attempting to run over an officer and passing out during police questioning.

Her blood alcohol level registered at 0.19, far above the North Carolina legal limit of 0.08. She spent three weekends in jail and was forced to pay $4,200 in damages.

But Magnum’s most famous clash with the law began on March 13, 2006.

Magnum, who at the time was one-month pregnant, was under the influence of alcohol, Ambien, methadone, Paxil, Flexeril and amitriptyline when she and another stripper, Kim Roberts, arrived at an off-campus house to perform for some members of the Duke Blue Devils men’s lacrosse team.

After exchanging insults during the performance with some of the players, both strippers went into the house’s bathroom, and two of the future defendants left the house. A short time later, Magnum stumbled out of the house half-dressed and shouting.

She and Roberts drove away from the house, but after an argument, Roberts pulled over into a supermarket’s parking lot and told a security guard that Magnum refused to leave her car.

The guard called 911, and police took Magnum away for questioning and transferred her to a substance abuse facility, Durham Access Center, where she first leveled rape accusations against the players.

Magnum initially told Durham police 20 men had raped her, but later reduced the number to only three, sometimes increasing it to five. She was also unable to consistently identify the three defendants — Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans — in police lineups, and claimed that they concealed their identities with pseudonyms.

Her recounting of the alleged assault changed often, and she told five to 12 different stories to medical investigators and police, according to a 60 Minutes investigation and a similar one conducted by the News and Observer paper in Raleigh.

A medical examination found DNA from several men inside Magnum, but none of whom were her current boyfriend or the lacrosse players.

The scandal stirred bad blood in the town, which had been plagued by racial tensions for years. Seligmann and Finnerty transferred out of Duke the next year.

District Attorney Mike Nifong, who made reckless statements further politicizing the case and inflaming tensions, told media that the players had “expensive lawyers their daddies could afford” and that he was “confident” Magnum had been raped and withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense.

The North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Committee disbarred Nifong in disgrace after finding him guilty of multiple ethics violations. A judge dismissed all charges against the players and Duke University issued an apology. But in a 2008 memoir, “The Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Magnum Story,” Magnum maintained that the players had indeed raped her.

In 2010, Magnum’s terrified nine-year-old daughter called police during a desperate struggle between Daye and Magnum, during which Magnum allegedly set his clothes on fire in the bathtub.

Magnum was charged with attempted murder, first-degree arson, assault and battery, communicating threats, damage to property, identity theft, misdemeanor child abuse and resisting an officer and held at first on a $1 million bond, which was later reduced to $100,000.

Later that year, she was again convicted of child abuse in property damage, child abuse and resisting an officer.

On April 3, 2011, Magnum fatally stabbed Daye, according to the jury’s findings. Daye’s nephew made the 911 call.

“It’s Crystal Mangum. THE Crystal Mangum,” he said to the dispatcher. “I told him she was trouble from the damn beginning.”

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Katie McHugh