Local News

Investigators still seek breaks in string of Fayetteville rapes

Posted January 13, 2011 5:25 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2011 6:37 p.m. EST

— A year after local authorities created a task force to investigate a series of sexual assaults in the Fayetteville area, no arrests have been made.

Seven women were raped or sexually assaulted between June 2009 and last January, and authorities said a year ago that they believed the cases were related.

All of the women lived in apartments or condominiums, and they were alone when a man broke into their homes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

"They're still actively open cases being worked on by detectives," said Sgt. Pam Brewington of the Fayetteville Police Department.

Since last January, investigators have looked at every other sexual assault and Peeping Tom case to determine if it might be related.

Although investigators released a sketch of a man wanted in the series of attacks, Brewington said they remain unsure if the cases are linked.

"You may have one victim that can give you some identifiers, but if it is a serial rapist, the next victim may not be able to give you the same identifiers," she said.

Sexual assaults in which the victim doesn't know her attacker are usually tough to solve, Brewington said. DNA is helpful only if it's obtained and can be matched with an existing sample, she said.

"We may not have DNA physical evidence collected," she said. "Just because the (rape) kit has it where you can collect it, it doesn't mean that we do collect it or that it's available for us to collect."

The investigation has had an impact:

  • Public concern over the possibility of a serial rapist led Fayetteville officials to order the police department to change its policy on publicizing sexual assaults. Now, the department must notify the public within 72 hours of an assault if the assailant is unknown.
  • The regional task force led to the arrest in March of a Fort Bragg soldier. Spc. Aaron Pernell was charged with six sexual assaults in Fayetteville and Hoke County, but not any of the string of attacks that led to the creation of the task force.
  • The number of rapes reported in the first six months of 2010 dropped by 35 percent, to 145 from 224 in the first half of 2009, according to Deanne Gerdes, director of the Rape Crises Volunteers of Cumberland County. The number began to rise again in the latter half of 2010, however, Gerdes said.
  • The Fayetteville Police Department created a Special Victims Unit in September, which led to authorities disbanding the regional task force.