DNA match leads to Hickory man’s arrest in 1994 Kentucky cold case

BROOKFORD, N.C. — A DNA match led to detectives getting answers in a 28-year-old cold case, leading to the arrest of a Hickory man.

In December 1994, a 19-year-old was kidnapped while leaving a friend’s home near Brescia University in Owensboro, Kentucky. Investigators said she was assaulted in Owensboro and then forced to drive to Indiana, where they said she was raped.

Owensboro police said they recently reviewed the case and contacted the Indiana State Police Laboratory. The lab said they still had DNA evidence on file that was entered before the Combined DNA Index System, a national database, was created.

The state police were asked to reopen their case and retest the DNA, which brought to light a potential suspect. State and local police worked together to follow up on the lead.

On March 22, Owensboro detectives were able to find a match and identification for the suspect DNA.

On Friday, officers from the Brookford Police Department in Catawba County served a warrant out of Owensboro on Robert Shelton, 59, on charges of kidnapping and sexual abuse first-degree. Shelton, from Hickory, also faces charges of rape from the Indiana State Police in connection to the cold case, investigators said.

A viewer shared video with Channel 9′s Dave Faherty of police arriving at the home to arrest Shelton.

“To know that this is right here is crazy,” said neighbor Kimberly Green. “I moved to this area thinking it was a nice little quiet neighborhood and out of the way. This is crazy.”

Faherty asked the Brookford police chief how Shelton reacted when he was arrested.

“Was he surprised?” Faherty asked.

“He didn’t seem to be,” Chief Willie Armstrong said. “He kind of was tipped off previously in March. And he didn’t seem to be fazed by it at all. He says he doesn’t remember much nowadays.”

Some neighbors said they weren’t surprised by the arrest. They said they already knew Shelton was on the North Carolina sex offender registry. Faherty checked state records and learned Shelton was sentenced to 10 years of prison time for another rape and sexual assault in Kentucky back in 1996.

One woman said she and others were concerned for their safety and are thankful for the arrest.

“I praise God for that because he would stand out and watch me. Every time I pulled up, he would come out and watch,” she said.

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