Investigators believe the man accused of kidnapping and killing 13-year-old Hania Aguilar is also responsible for a previously unsolved rape from 2016.
Michael McLellan appeared in court Monday to face charges in both cases.
Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt said evidence discovered while police were investigating the kidnapping of Aguilar last month led them to DNA evidence that was also linked to a 2016 unsolved rape case, WTVD reports.
McLellan was indicted by a grand jury last week on charges connected to that 2016 case. The charges include rape, burglary, and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
McLellan also faces 10 felony charges in the Aguilar case, including charges of first-degree murder, first-degree forcible rape, and first-degree kidnapping.
Aguilar disappeared Nov. 5 after she had gone outside her home before school to start a relative's car and was forced into the vehicle by a man wearing a yellow bandana over his face. Her body was found three weeks later in a pond 10 miles from her home.
Britt, who chose not to run for re-election as Robeson County District Attorney and will be replaced by Matthew Scott next month, said if he were continue as the district attorney he would seek the death penalty in the case, The Robesonian reports. The decision will now be left to Scott.
McLellan has been in police custody since mid-November but his connection to the Aguilar case was just recently announced. Some have questioned why Lumberton police and the FBI initially insisted McLellan was not a person of interest in the case after speculation on social media began to point to him as a suspect.
On Monday, Britt said the decision was made to protect the case. He said investigators wanted to find "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" before making the information public, according to WTVD.
He said McLellan became a suspect in the case after the car that he allegedly used to kidnap Aguilar was found and tested for evidence.
"We had hoped to find her alive. As time went on it became very apparent that she was dead, so it became necessary to find her," Britt said, according to the local newspaper.
Investigators were concerned that releasing the name too early could have had a "prejudicial effect" on prosecution. Britt said they waited until they thought they had enough evidence to convict him.
McLellan is expected in court again for a probable cause hearing on Dec. 21.
[Photo: AP/FBI Charlotte]
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