DNA leads to arrest in sexual assault case 34 years later

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It took almost 34 years, but police in Charlotte said they have finally caught a man who tied up and sexually assaulted a woman in her north Charlotte apartment.

Cold case detectives walked Timothy Benfield, 52, into the Police Department for questioning Wednesday afternoon about the attack that happened on University City Boulevard in July 1980.

Sgt. Darrell Price said the woman was alone in her apartment when the suspect broke in.

“She was awakened shortly after 4 in the morning to a man standing over her in her bedroom,” Price said.

Price said the man had a knife and tied the woman to the bed, then sexually assaulted her.

Police did an extensive investigation but they hit dead ends and the case sat unsolved for decades on the shelves of the Police Department’s property control room until DNA testing pointed to Benfield as the suspect.

Price said Benfield was living in Myrtle Beach when agents with South Carolina’s Law Enforcement Division picked him up. 
 
He waived extradition and agreed to come back to Charlotte to face the charges that include rape, robbery and kidnapping.

It’s the latest in a long string of cases-- more than 150 -- that the cold case unit has solved since it began reviewing more than 2,200 unsolved rape cases in the department’s files.

In this case, like many, the victim was stunned when detectives delivered the news.

“They said she was blown away by being contacted 34 years after the crime that has rocked her world, in a bad way, not in a great way. And hopefully this will bring some peace and some resolution to her,” Price said.