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2 deputies suspended over 2016 rape case linked to slain N.C. teen

By Danielle Haynes
2 deputies suspended over 2016 rape case linked to slain N.C. teen
Officials believe the same suspect is responsible for the 2016 rape and the abduction, rape and slaying of 13-year-old Hania Aguilar last month. Photo courtesy FBI

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Officials suspended two Robeson County, N.C., deputies over a 2016 rape case linked to the abduction and slaying of 13-year-old Hania Aguilar, the county's sheriff's office said.

The office suspended Maj. Anthony Thompson, who oversees the jail, and Darryl McPhatter, a detective, with pay Thursday. The suspensions came after an internal investigation, though Chief Deputy HB Branch declined to elaborate on the results of the probe.

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The probe came after Sheriff Burns Wilkins announced an investigation into how the department handled a 2016 rape case allegedly committed by the same man accused of killing Aguilar.

Michael Ray McLellan, 34, who faces charges of 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 and concealment of a death in the Aguilar case, was later charged with more counts for the 2016 case.

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Earlier this month, Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt announced the additional charges of rape, burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the unsolved 2016 home invasion in which a Lumberton woman was raped at knifepoint.

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The Robesonian newspaper reported that a state lab identified McLellan as the likely suspect in the 2016 case and sent the results of testing to the district attorney's office and the sheriff's office. The newspaper said the two offices never acted upon the information.

Hania disappeared Nov. 5 after being forced into a family member's SUV outside her family's home. Searchers found her body three weeks later in the same county from which she was abducted.

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Testing from the stolen SUV in which Hania was abducted and from her body led police to arrest McLellan. The cause of her death has not been determined.

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