Local News

Murder suspect charged in online sex sting

Posted February 5, 2009 6:51 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— A man suspected in the 1997 disappearance of a Carrboro woman has been arrested in an online sex sting, authorities said.

Andrew Dalzell, 32, of Gastonia, was arrested Tuesday in Buncombe County and charged with solicitation of a child by computer. He was being held in jail under a $70,000 bond.

Authorities said he traded messages in an online chat room with an undercover officer posing as an 11-year-old and discussed performing sex acts in the messages.

Dalzell couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, and a message left for his mother wasn't returned.

"We were waiting for him to get caught doing something," said Joy Preslar, who believes Dalzell killed her friend, Debbie Key.

Key disappeared from the parking lot of a Carrboro pub in December 1997. Although her body has never been found, prosecutors arrested Dalzell in 2004 and charged him with her murder.

The two were acquaintances, and Dalzell was reportedly the last person to see Key before her disappearance. Police said Dalzell confessed to the crime.

A judge threw out the confession in 2005, ruling that officers crossed the line by showing him bogus court documents to obtain it. Officers admitted they showed Dalzell a phony arrest warrant and a fake letter that purported to be from the district attorney and said he would seek the death penalty if Dalzell didn't confess to the crime.

Without the confession, prosecutors were forced to drop the murder charge a few months later.

Dalzell later discussed his confession on "NC Wanted," which airs on WRAL's sister station, WRAZ-FOX50.

"I told them what they wanted to hear," he said. "I just wanted to go home. I wanted to be with my girlfriend at that point, Stacy. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to eat."

Preslar said she remains unconvinced of Dalzell's innocence, and she said she's glad he faces more charges.

"To hear that the man who confessed to her murder, whether he was convicted of it or not, is in jail is good news," she said. "I'd love to see him turn around. I'd love to see him rehabilitate in jail – but in jail, where he can't harm other people."

Still, Dalzell's arrest brings her little comfort.

"It's hard. It's hard to be without her," she said of Key. "I can't go to Walnut Creek to see bands anymore because she was my Walnut Creek buddy. I can't go out to hear a band without thinking of her."