Agent: Soldier claims voice told him to assault women
Posted April 8, 2010
Fort Bragg, N.C. — DNA evidence linked an 82nd Airborne Division soldier to the sexual assault of a woman on Fort Bragg in December, authorities said Thursday.
The Army is conducting a hearing to determine whether Spec. Aaron Michael Pernell, 22, will face court-martial. He is charged in two burglaries and the sexual assault in the Ste. Mere Eglise neighborhood on post.
Pernell, who is an indirect fire infantryman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, also has been charged with assaulting three women in Fayetteville and another three women in Hoke County between 2008 and 2009.
Jarrad Williams, an agent with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, testified during the hearing Thursday that Pernell's DNA matched semen found on the clothing of the Fort Bragg woman.
The woman told investigators that she was raped in front of her child on Dec. 13 and that her attacker spent three to four hours inside her home, Williams said.
Army investigators canvassed the neighborhood after the attack and found another woman who said she saw a man who broke into her home and stole a diamond ring, Williams said.
Based on the women's descriptions, investigators created a composite sketch of the burglar, and a Fayetteville woman linked it to Pernell, who was charged with breaking into her home in September, Williams said.
The Army obtained DNA from Pernell, and it matched evidence from the sexual assault on post, Williams said.
After he was detained by authorities on Jan. 28, Pernell told investigators that "Jason," a voice inside his head, instructed him to attack the woman, Williams said.
"I myself would not commit these crimes. The voice in my head makes me do bad things," Williams recalled Pernell telling investigators.
Family members have said that Pernell returned from a 15-month deployment to Iraq in 2006 as a changed, troubled man.
Pernell also faces more than 30 charges in Fayetteville and Hoke County, where investigators believe attacked six other women. Authorities haven't released details of those cases.
A regional task force of local, state and military authorities has not named him as a suspect in a highly publicized series of rapes in Fayetteville and Hope Mills between June and January.
The task force has released a sketch of a man believed to be responsible for the attacks. Anyone who might recognize the person in the sketch should call a tip line at 910-433-1934.
Pernell has been in military custody since his arrest.