Police: Sexual assault victims 'grateful,' after arrest made in decades old cold cases


CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A man has been arrested in connection with two separate sexual assault cold cases involving teenage girls that happened in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Justice sometimes can be slow but I think it's just a testament to the fact we don't give up and technology is now catching up and things that we couldn't do back at the time with DNA testing we can do now" said Lt. Melanie Peacock.

According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, 49-year-old Zellie Edwards is facing rape and kidnapping charges. Police say the alleged incidents occurred in 1988 and 1994.

In September 1988, a 16-year-old was reportedly walking home on Nations Ford Road around 11:30 p.m. when Edwards reportedly began following her. Police say Edwards then allegedly pulled the victim into a vacant apartment and sexually assaulted her.

In April 1994, a 17-year-old was walking home around midnight on West Boulevard when Edwards allegedly started walking with her and engaged in a conversation. Edwards then reportedly sexually assaulted the teen in a wooded area, police say.

Both of the victims were taken to the hospital following the alleged incidents, according to police.

Lt Peacock said "it's not something that was similar enough that we put the two together." There was a time gap between the two attacks and they happened in different neighborhood "but in both cases victims were walking home alone and encountered the suspect."

Police say evidence was collected in each case and analyzed but at the time of the attacks DNA testing did not exist.

Now, it does.

In 2017, evidence from both cold cases were included in testing as part of a federal grant CMPD received, officers say.

Police said a DNA match led to his arrest.

"Prior to his DNA hitting on these cases, he was not identified as a suspect in those cases nor did we know they were related until this happened," Lt Peacock said. "I think the value of these grants  - it's important to talk about what it's allowed us to do in bringing justice to victims and how excited we are to have to that opportunity to be able to do a lot of the work that resource wise we couldn't do alone with just our crime lab and our detectives so these grants have been extremely valuable in allowing us to get some resolution for victims."

The two alleged victims were "very grateful that their cases were not forgotten," police say.

"Both are local still and very very appreciative," Lt Peacock said. "Both of them were very grateful and both each made the comment they were just glad they hadn't been forgotten about."

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