CHARLOTTE, NC — Charlotte police have arrested a man they say is behind two sexual assaults of local teenagers in cases dating back to 1988 and 1994. Those cases had grown cold until a recent federal grant for rape kit DNA testing provided authorities new leads.
Charlotte has a backlog of more than 800 sexual assault kits that have either only been partially tested or not processed at all, The Charlotte Observer reported recently.
While occurring six years apart, the two sexual assault cases were similar, according to police reports. A 16-year-old female walking home along the 8500 block of Nations Ford Road when she was followed by a man, who then pulled her into a vacant apartment and sexually assaulted her. In April of 1994, also late at night, a 17-year-old woman was walking home in the 1900 block of West Boulevard when a man began walking with her before he sexually assaulted her in a wooded area.
In both cases, the victims were treated at hospitals and evidence was collected. That DNA evidence, however, wasn’t tested until 2017, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police received a federal grant for testing, according to the police report.
“DNA evidence confirmed Zellie Edwards as the suspect in both cases,” CMPD said in a statement announcing the arrest.
Charlotte police located Edwards, 49, and arrested him without incident Feb. 8, and following an interview at police headquarters, charged him with two counts of 2nd degree rape and one count of 2nd degree kidnapping.
In 2006, CMPD launched a Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit to review 2,886 cases, and reports fewer than 10 percent of those cases have been resolved. “Of those cases, 260 have been cleared, 80 of which were cleared by arrest, 177 were exceptionally cleared and 3 have been unfounded,” CMPD said Wednesday.
In October 2017, CMPD received a Department of Justice grant of $837,342 aimed at getting Charlotte caught up with DNA testing, the Observer reported. In addition to testing, the grant paid for two new laptops for sexual assault detectives, as well as the hiring of a part-time researcher.
Photo courtesy of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
For more news like this, sign up for our free daily newsletters and Breaking News Alerts for the Charlotte Patch. Access Patch on the go with our iPhone app or our brand new app for Android phone users.