WICHITA, Kansas — Cornell Antoine McNeal, 26, made an appearance in court on Friday afternoon, regarding the public release of the probable cause affidavit in his arrest. Judge Ben Burgess ordered the release of the probable cause in the Fairmount Park murder case.
McNeal was charged with capital murder and rape of 36-year-old Wichita mother, Letitia Davis, in Fairmount Park. According to McNeal’s attorney, there were two affidavits of probable cause; one before the death of Davis, and one after.
The documents show that investigators combed the area around the attack in Fairmount Park and seized part of a flip phone that was damaged.
A detective contacted Cricket Communications and found that the subscriber information connected to the phone came back to an address that Cornell McNeal had used.
DOCUMENT LINK | McNeal Probable Cause Affidavits (.pdf 2.26MB)
Forensic nurses at Via Christi also took forensic evidence from the victim at the hospital and entered that information into the Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center for testing.
The DNA profile matched a case already in the system from 2010 and matched the profile listed as Cornell McNeal.
The suspect was taken into custody and questioned. During questioning, McNeal said that he frequents Fairmount Park, but said he had not had sexual contact with a woman the night of the attack, insisting that it was not him.
In objecting to the release of the records, McNeal’s defense said the Kansas state law provides grounds for sealing affidavits if their disclosure would “endanger the life or physical safety of any person.” The defense contends the section applies in this case because prosecutors could seek the death penalty and because McNeal could become a target of other inmates at the Sedgwick Co. Jail.
Prosecutors, representatives of the state, did not object to the disclosure of the records.
Lyndon Vix, a lawyer representing local media, including KSN News, says the law was changed “in favor of access” and public disclosure.
KSN believes it is important for the public to obtain as much information as possible in cases like this one. That is why we, along with other local media, went to court Friday to fight for the release of McNeal’s probable cause affidavit.
While defense attorneys for McNeal argued that the details leading to his arrest should be sealed from the public, Judge Ben Burgess ultimately decided in favor of the media and the affidavit’s disclosure.
“You have to have some pretty concrete reasons and speculation about what might happen is not sufficient and the judge found that there hadn’t been concrete reasons given and he also found that there were ways of protecting defendants in all cases,” said Vix.
|Affidavit before Letitia’s death||Revised affidavit after Letitia’s death|