2 Robeson deputies suspended over 2016 rape case now linked to Hania Aguilar’s murder

Left: Michael Ray McLellan | Right: Hania Noelia Aguilar

LUMBERTON, N.C. – Two deputies have been suspended in relation to a case that is connected to the kidnapping, murder and rape of 13-year-old Hania Aguilar.

The Robesonian reported that Robeson County Sheriff’s Office deputies Maj. Anthony Thompson and Darryl McPhatter have been suspended with pay.

Thompson runs the jail and McPhatter is a detective with the Criminal Investigations unit, according to the paper.

The suspensions come after it was announced that  the kidnapping and killing of 13-year-old Aguilar may have been prevented if authorities had properly handled DNA evidence from a separate case last year.

Robeson County District Attorney Luther Johnson Britt told reporters earlier this month that authorities had evidence linking suspect Michael Ray McLellan to a rape case for at least a year, but they took no action.

“This hurts,” Britt previously said. “This is like taking a punch to the gut and not being prepared to get it.”

The county’s sheriff and district attorney offices were notified in October 2017 that DNA recovered from a 2016 rape kit possibly matched McLellan.

The kit had been compared to more than 17 million profiles taken from convicted offenders, detainees and arrestees in the national law enforcement database system known as CODIS.

But nobody followed up on it and authorities only discovered the issue last week, Britt said.

“I don’t know what happened,” Britt said.

McLellan, 34, has been charged with first-degree murder and multiple other offenses related to Hania’s killing. He is being held without bail.

Hania was kidnapped last month from her driveway in Lumberton, about 95 miles south of Raleigh. Police said the abductor forced her into a relative’s idling SUV and drove away.

The eighth grader’s body was found last week in water off a rural road in Robeson County, while the SUV was abandoned fewer than 10 miles from the home, authorities said.

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