• NC investigator fired amid claims of overlooked DNA in Hania Aguilar case


    LUMBERTON, N.C. - A Robeson County Sheriff's Office investigator has been fired after an investigation into overlooked DNA in the Hania Aguilar case, according to our news affiliate WTVD. 

    Sheriff Burnis Wilkins Jr. said Investigator Darryl McPhatter was fired Thursday following a suspension during the initial investigation. 

    [ALSO READ: DA: Police overlooked evidence linking Hania Aguilar murder suspect to 2016 rape]

    In addition, Major Anthony Thompson was suspended for his involvement in the case, but resigned on Jan. 9. 

    WTVD reported the news release did not say McPhatter was fired regarding Aguilar's case, but Wilkins confirmed he was under investigation for her case. 

    "It angers me and I've got to deal with," Wilkins told WTVD. "To know that that happened, to know the reports didn't follow the proper channels, that further investigation wasn't done, interviews weren't done properly, I have a major issue with that." 

    [ALSO READ: Scheduling hearing to be held for man accused of raping, killing Lumberton teen]

    Michael Ray McLellan is accused of kidnapping 13-year-old Aguilar from outside her home on Nov. 5. Her body was found 22 days later. 

    McLellan now faces multiple charges such as first-degree murder, first-degree rape, and kidnapping.

    McLellan's charges:

    • first-degree murder
    • first-degree forcible rape
    • statutory rape of a person under 15 years of age or younger
    • first-degree sexual offense, statutory sex offense with a person 15 years or younger
    • first-degree kidnapping
    • felony larceny
    • felony restraint
    • abduction of child
    • concealment of a death

    According to authorities, after McLellan was linked to Aguilar's case, he was also charged in an unsolved rape case from 2016.

    In 2017, COTIS--a federal DNA matching system--named McLellan as a possible match in the unsolved rape case and immediately notified the sheriff's office.

    The Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt argued McLellan should have been in prison in 2018 for past crimes and should never have had the chance kidnap Aguilar. 

    [RELATED: Community pays respects to kidnapped, slain Lumberton teen]

    "In all likelihood, had (the 2016 rape investigation) gone forward and we established a case against (McLellan) at that time, Hania would not have died," Britt said. 

    Officials said the Robeson County Sheriff's Office launched an internal investigation into the 2016 case following Britt's statements. 

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