Prosecutor Says Hania Aguilar Likely 'Would Not Have Died' If Authorities Hadn't Overlooked Evidence From 2016 Rape

A North Carolina prosecutor claimed 13-year-old Hania Aguilar may not have been kidnapped and killed if authorities had not missed important evidence from a 2016 rape case. Aguilar was kidnapped on November 5, raped and later killed.

Michael McLellan, 34, was charged on December 8, with 10 felonies in connection to the girl's kidnapping and death. McLellan was also believed to be a possible rape suspect in a 2016 case, District Attorney Johnson Britt said, according to WNCN.

Hania Aguilar
Hania Aguilar, 13, was kidnapped from in front of her home on November 5, in Lumberton, North Carolina. Aguilar's body was found on November 27 in Robeson County. FBI

McLellan was named as a possible DNA match to the alleged rape, prosecutors said. The information from the state crime lab was sent to the sheriff's office in 2017, but nothing was done with it, WNCN reported.

After receiving the state crime lab's report, the sheriff's office should have requested a warrant to collect a sample of McLellan's DNA.

"We were actually meeting with Hania's mother and her stepfather to explain to them what had happened to express my regret and our regret that this had been missed, and likelihood (that) had this gone forward and had we established a case against him, at that time, Hania would not have died. I can't tell you how much that hurts. I can't tell you how sorry I am," Britt said.

Britt said that despite having the state crime lab's report for at least a year, police took no action. "This hurts," Britt told reporters on Wednesday, according to WJW. "This is like taking a punch to the gut and not being prepared to get it."

The same crime lab matched McLellan's DNA to Aguilar, leading to authorities charging him with her rape and murder.

Britt said Aguilar's mother was "very tearful" after learning that her daughter's death may have been prevented. He added that the distraught mother asked prosecutors if they had fixed the issue already. "We assured her we were working on that," Britt said.

Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins, who took officer earlier in December, announced that his officer had launched an internal affairs investigation about the slip-up.

Aguilar was kidnapped from in front of her Lumberton home and forced into a family member's SUV. The stolen SUV was found just a few miles away from the abduction site. The eighth grader's body was discovered in Robeson County on November 27.

McLellan was also charged in the 2016 rape.

Prosecutor Says Hania Aguilar Likely 'Would Not Have Died' If Authorities Hadn't Overlooked Evidence From 2016 Rape | U.S.