Sheriff Burnis Wilkins of Lumberton, North Carolina, has started an internal affairs investigation following the death of teen Hania Aguilar, to determine if the correct protocol was taken for a reported 2016 rape, which has now been linked to the man accused of raping and killing Hania.
The Robesonian reports that Wilkins announced during a press conference Wednesday that the investigation is still in its beginning stages, but he plans to disclose the outcome to the public as soon as the investigation concludes.
“Once we determine what occurred, the citizens will be made aware of the findings,” Wilkins, who took office on December 3, said in a statement.
According to Robeson County District Attorney Luther Johnson Britt, deputies failed to gather the evidence from the rape, which linked back to Michael Ray McLellan, the man accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing 13-year-old Hania Aguilar. Britt said the evidence was “overlooked,” which likely could have saved Hania’s life had authorities acted in a timely manner.
During the 2016 incident, McLellan allegedly removed an air conditioning unit from the victim’s window, crawled into her window and raped her at knife point. The victim attempted to shoot the suspect but the gun misfired. The suspect reportedly stole the victim’s cash before fleeing.
In 2017, according to CNN, the district attorney offices and the Robeson county sheriff were informed that DNA found at the crime scene matched to McLellan after being to compared to around 17 million nationwide offenders.
“I don’t know what happened,” Britt said, referring to lack of action to arrest McLellan after the incident. “This hurts…..This is like taking a punch to the gut and not being prepared to get it.”
In November 2018, McLellan allegedly snatched Hania from her own driveway as she waited to be taken to school. He forced her into her aunt’s SUV, then drove the vehicle away before anyone could stop him. Hania was later found deceased in a remote area in Robeson County.
McLellan is facing a myriad of felony charges in connection to both cases. He remains behind bars without bond. He’s expected in court on December 21 for Hania’s case, followed by a January 7 appearance for the 2016 rape case.
[Feature Photo: Michael McLellan; Hania Aguilar/Police Handout]