Local News

DNA links Hoke rape case to Fayetteville cases

Posted January 12, 2010 12:57 p.m. EST
Updated January 12, 2010 6:10 p.m. EST

— Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said Tuesday evening 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.

The State Bureau of Investigation lab returned the evidence to Hoke County last week, Peterkin said in a statement, and other aspects of the case are similar to a series of burglaries and sexual assaults that Fayetteville police are investigating. Peterkin said he is reviewing other sexual assault cases in the county to determine if they could be linked as well.

Despite the similarities, Fayetteville police backed off an earlier characterization that a serial rapist is preying on local women.

"We just know there are similarities (in the Fayetteville cases), but does that mean that it's the same person? No," Sgt. Pam Brewington of the Fayetteville Police Department said. "Without the result from evidence comparisons, we can't say that any of these are specifically the same person."

The Fayetteville crimes began with on June 24, when a woman on Glenwick Drive reported that a man broke into her home and tried to sexually assault her. The next night, another woman on Glenwick Drive was raped and robbed by a burglar.

In November, two women on Ancestry Drive were sexually assaulted. Another rape and robbery occurred on Preston Woods Lane on Dec. 12.

On Christmas Day, a woman on Elm Street was raped by a man who broke into her home, and a woman on Tryon Drive was raped and robbed on Jan. 4. The latest incident occurred on Elk Road in Hope Mills on Sunday night.

In each case, police said, a man broke into an apartment between 10 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. and assaulted a woman who was home alone. Investigators have only a vague description of the man's appearance.

Police couldn't say whether the women were followed home before the attacks.

The woman in the Hoke County case reported that someone broke into her home at 1:20 a.m. and raped her at gunpoint, authorities said. The assailant matched the vague description given by victims of the Fayetteville assaults, authorities said.

Army investigators said Tuesday that a case on Fort Bragg with similar circumstances was under investigation, but they said there was no evidence that the crime was linked to the Fayetteville cases.

In the Fort Bragg case, a man broke into several homes in the Ste. Mere Eglise neighborhood in December and sexually assaulted a woman during one burglary. The assailant in that case is described as a light-skinned Hispanic or black man in his mid-20s with a slender build. He is between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall and was last seen wearing a black stocking cap, a dark hooded sweatshirt, a dark jacket and possibly blue jeans and dark tennis shoes with bright accents.

Fayetteville police didn't publicly connect the local cases until Monday, when they announced that they had created a task force to investigate the crimes and urged women to be vigilant.

Brewington said neighbors were notified after each assault, with detectives going door to door. Police Chief Tom Bergamine said investigators needed time to compare the cases.

"We have to give these folks time to do some things before we just start putting out and airing information," Bergamine said.

Brewington said police also didn't want to alarm people unnecessarily.

"We'd have public panic on a day-to-day basis," she said.

John Thomas, who lives on Glenwick Drive, said he hears for his girlfriend's safety.

"It's just a scary thought," Thomas said. "God forbid anything happens to my family or anybody else's family. That's very scary."

Although some of the cases involved forcible entry into an apartment, police urged women to lock their doors and windows before going to bed and to activate an alarm system if they have one. They also recommended keeping a cell phone handy in case of emergency and to call 911 if they notice any suspicious activity.

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