Authorities went to the engine-repair shop where Andre Demetrius Vines, 27, of 1712 Fletcher Drive, worked and arrested him for the death of 65-year-old Ellen Sharpe. Investigators said Vines lived across the street from Sharpe.
Ellen Sharpe was found dead in her home in April. Police said Vines raped and killed his neighbor, then set her apartment on fire to hide the evidence. Authorities said they focused on Vines as a suspect early on and were awaiting results of tests performed on evidence taken from the scene.
Vines spoke with WRAL's Kelcey Carlson as he was being taken to jail, and he denied the charges.
Asked if he had killed Sharpe, Vines said, "No, ma'am, I didn't do it."
Police arrested him, he said, because, "They have a lot of circumstantial evidence, you know, and I suit their needs, I guess."
Vines told investigators that he had visited Sharpe at her home several times before, they said. Police found no signs of forced entry nor anything taken from Sharpe's home, which made them suspect she knew her killer. Investigators said they still did not know a motive even after arresting Vines.
Investigators also said Vines severed Sharpe's hands and took them from the scene. So far, police have not found them. The medical examiner ruled that Sharpe died of blunt-force trauma and strangulation.
Vines has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree arson and robbery with a dangerous weapon. He was convicted in 1998 of robbery with a dangerous weapon and released from prison in 2005.
Police also said he had a criminal record that involved narcotics and assault, but they did not offer specifics.
Vines was expected to make his first court appearance Thursday.