Crime & Courts

Victim in Fairmount Park attack dies

Flower hang on a fence near the area in Fairmount Park where a woman was attacked, raped and burned Nov. 14. The woman died from her injuries on Saturday morning.
Flower hang on a fence near the area in Fairmount Park where a woman was attacked, raped and burned Nov. 14. The woman died from her injuries on Saturday morning. The Wichita Eagle

A woman who was sexually assaulted and then set on fire in Fairmount Park has died, Wichita police Lt. James Espinoza said Saturday.

The woman – identified in a police report as 36-year-old Letitia Davis – died at 9:38 a.m. Saturday at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, Espinoza said. She was being treated for lacerations and burns to 55 percent of her body after she was attacked, beaten, raped and set on fire while walking in the park at around 11 p.m. on Nov. 14.

The suspect in the attack, 26-year-old Cornell A. McNeal, was charged Friday in Sedgwick County District Court with attempted capital murder, rape and two counts of arson.

Espinoza said Saturday that charges against McNeal will be amended to include murder. As of Saturday, authorities had not officially released the woman’s name.

After news of the woman’s death was released Saturday by police, District Attorney Marc Bennett said by e-mail that his office would review the case and consider amending McNeal’s charges.

“The office of the district attorney extends our sympathy to the family and friends of the victim. Sometime Monday we expect the Wichita police department will provide us with an update, including the results of an autopsy,” Bennett said in the e-mail.

“At that time, we will be in a position to determine whether an amended charge of capital murder is supported.”

Under Kansas law, capital murder can be charged when a killing is intentional and premeditated and occurs during or after a rape.

It is a death penalty-eligible offense.

McNeal is accused of assaulting the woman as she walked in Fairmount Park, which is south of Wichita State University’s main campus. He was booked into jail early Thursday on suspicion of rape and attempted first-degree murder after evidence collected by forensic nurses at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis linked him to the crime, according to police.

Police have said the attack appears to be random and that McNeal and the woman did not know one another.

Contributing: Stan Finger

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

How to help

A fund has been created to accept donations to help pay medical bills incurred by a 36-year-old woman who was beaten, raped and burned Nov. 14 during an attack at Fairmount Park in Wichita and for living expenses of her four children.

Donations can be sent or taken to any of the 12 Credit Union of America branches in the Wichita metropolitan area. The donations should be cash or checks made out to “Loving Mother.”

Credit Union of America customers can transfer funds into the “Loving Mother” account from their own accounts, but those transfers must be made in person.

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