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Fayetteville officials to discuss police handling of rape cases

Posted January 13, 2010

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— The Fayetteville City Council has scheduled a meeting for next week to review how the Fayetteville Police Department handled its investigation into a series of burglaries and sexual assaults in recent months.

Six women in Fayetteville and a seventh in Hope Mills have been sexually assaulted since late June by a man who broke into their homes – usually apartments – late at night while they were home alone, according to police reports. In an eighth case, a burglar tried to sexually assault a Fayetteville woman before fleeing.

Mayor: Who knew what, when about rape cases?

Police said they notified neighbors after each attack, but they didn't publicly connect the cases until Monday, when they announced the formation of a task force to investigate the crimes and urged women to be vigilant.

"The primary role of government is the protection of its citizens," Mayor Tony Chavonne said in a statement Wednesday. "The City Council shares in the concerns of our citizens with the lack of information regarding the recent assaults in our community."

Two women who live on Glenwick Drive, where the first two attacks occurred in June, said police never told them about the rapes. Officers conducted a community meeting about a month after the assaults only to warn of recent crimes, the women said.

"They were still not forthcoming about the rapes," one woman said angrily. "(They said) that there was an assault and break-in (and) 'You've got to be careful.' They didn't even tell us that the girl had gotten raped."

"I think we should have known as soon as it happened,” her neighbor said.

Police Chief Tom Bergamine on Tuesday defended his department's delay in notifying the public about the attacks, saying investigators needed time to connect the dots to determine if the cases were related. He and other police officials said they also wanted to protect the victims' privacy and avoid unduly alarming the public.

"We need to verify (information), and we need to collaborate and meet with our victims," Sgt. Pam Brewington said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

Chavonne said City Manager Dale Iman would cut short a training session by the University of North Carolina's School of Government that he was attending in Wilmington to review the situation and prepare a report for the City Council.

The report will outline "who knew what information, when they knew it and why the information was not released to the City Council or our local citizens in order that there are not further communication breakdowns," Chavonne said.

The City Council will meet at 5 p.m. Jan. 19 to receive the report.

Police declined to comment Wednesday. They have said it's too early to say whether a serial rapist is preying on Fayetteville women, noting they have only a vague description of an assailant.

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said Tuesday that he recently learned that DNA evidence from an Aug. 10 sexual assault in the Lindsey Road area east of Raeford matches evidence from an unsolved sexual assault in Fayetteville. Other aspects of the Hoke County case also match details of the Fayetteville attacks, he said.

Meanwhile, Army investigators said Tuesday that they have no evidence that a case on Fort Bragg with similar circumstances is linked to the Fayetteville cases.

Anyone with information about the assaults is asked to call Detective J. Rodriguez of the Fayetteville Police Department at 910-433-1856.

10 Comments

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  • Air Biscuit Jan 14, 2010

    Now, now, children...don't go criticizing the FPD...I did a week or so ago and got called every name in the book..

    ...must be that people on this site have a double-standard...criticize the police when the case scares them, but take the police side when the case doesn't really affect them (i.e. the chase)

    pick a side of the fence and stay on it!

  • Dick Jan 13, 2010

    Sounds like FPD has something to hide regarding some internal personnel issues. I guess it goes w/ law enforcement territory, though (US AGAINST THEM).

  • ghimmy51 Jan 13, 2010

    Leo-NC with an attitude like yours you're in the wrong line of work. It's your DUTY to warn of things like this long before it can be "serial." Maybe .. just MAYBE one of those women would have taken a little extra care IF SHE HAD KNOWN there was a specific threat. I'm ashamed of you.

  • boolittlek Jan 13, 2010

    "Bunch-o-whiners.... Cry me a river about not being notified right away. If he did though, you'd probably be whining about that, too."

    What if one (or several) of the assault victims were to say she wished she had heard about the previous attacks. Would you call her a whiner?

    Since some of the attacks involved forcible entry into apartments, notification might have prompted single women in the area to invest in alarm systems or apartment complexes to improve security measures.

    And for Centurian, you are correct--too much information released to the public can jeopardize investigations. But I hardly think something along the lines of "Random assaults on the rise--authorities unsure if attacks are connected" released a few months back would have crippled anything.

  • leo-nc Jan 13, 2010

    Bunch-o-whiners.... Cry me a river about not being notified right away. If he did though, you'd probably be whining about that, too.

  • TrooperChik Jan 13, 2010

    OMG.. the Army never admits to anything anyway!!! My ex was a Captain in the Army and their motto was "ADMIT NOTHING,DENY EVERYTING AND HURL COUNTER ACCUSATIONS!"...

  • Centurian Jan 13, 2010

    Another case of the police investigation being handicapped by untrained politicians and curious onlookers, being fed by the media. Information given to the public and Council BECOMES PUBLIC and can cripple an investigator's ability to validate the truth in interviews with witnesses or suspects.

    Do Fayetteville residents believe that having the Police tell them to "be careful, there are bad people about", would do a darned thing to change the attitudes of people. I suppose the police are EASIER TO BLAME than the rapist!

  • boolittlek Jan 13, 2010

    I agree completely, ghimmy51. Even if this weren't a serial situation, the public should have been alerted much earlier that a significant number of random assaults had occurred.

  • ghimmy51 Jan 13, 2010

    This isn't about "connecting the dots." This is about PEOPLE and the police who are supposed to keep us informed not letting the public know there was one or more rapists on the loose. That's what it's about. Not "serial." Who cares? It's all the same to the victims and after the first or second at most we ALL had a right to know.

  • bathroom_monkey Jan 13, 2010

    Bergamine should be fired! The FPD always keeps a muzzle on in criminal cases.