DA: Police overlooked evidence linking Hania Aguilar murder suspect to 2016 rape

A North Carolina prosecutor says police overlooked evidence linking a 2016 rape to a released felon now accused of raping and killing a 13-year-old girl.

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Michael McLellan, 34, was charged Saturday with kidnapping, raping and murdering Hania Aguilar, who was taken Nov. 5 from her front yard in Lumberton while she was waiting to go to school, according to media reports.

Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt told The News & Observer of Raleigh Tuesday that, "while using a federal database in 2017, the North Carolina state crime lab discovered that a 2016 rape kit sent from Robeson County matched McLellan's DNA, which was already in the system due to an earlier felony conviction."

However, Britt said the Sheriff's Office didn't follow up on the case. That "hit" on McLellan's DNA should have caused investigators to take another DNA sample to confirm the test, Britt said, but that didn't happen.

“At some point, it obviously fell through the cracks,” he said. “You hate it. You punch yourself.”

Investigators said Monday that DNA was essential in leading to an arrest in Hania's death, as officials were able to match DNA samples from a stolen SUV, located not far from where Hania's body was found, to McLellan.

After his arrest for Hania's death, McLellan was also charged in the 2016 rape.

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