ROBESON COUNTY – No one is perfect, and mistakes happen even in the most sensitive and structured systems. But when a ‘failure to follow up’ on DNA evidence directly linking a suspect to a rape enables that same suspect to rape and murder a child two years later, something is seriously wrong.
From the News & Observer:
“Investigators had DNA evidence linking Michael Ray McLellan to a 2016 rape a year before charging him in the murder of 13-year-old Hania Aguilar, but the sheriff’s office did not follow up, the county district attorney said Tuesday.
McLellan, 34, is charged with raping and murdering Hania, who went missing in November when a man forced her into an idling vehicle outside her Lumberton home as she waited to go to school.
Using a federal database in 2017, the North Carolina state crime lab discovered that a 2016 rape kit sent from Robeson County matched McLellan’s DNA, which was already in the system due to an earlier felony conviction, Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt said.
Those results were sent to the district attorney’s office, then forwarded on a disc to the sheriff’s office, according to Britt. Normally, he said, that “hit” would prompt investigators to locate McLellan and take a new DNA sample to confirm the test.
“At some point, it obviously fell through the cracks,” Britt said. “You hate it. You punch yourself.””
We can only imagine that the loss of a child to such a horrific crime is unbearable on its own. To learn that law enforcement mistakes are the reason the murderer of your child was not behind bars already is unfathomable.
Read more about the case, and Robeson County’s history of high profile murder cases, here.