LUMBERTON, NC (WWAY) — A judge today denied bond for a man accused of kidnapping, raping and killed a Lumberton teenager last month. Meanwhile no decision has been made yet on whether he will face the death penalty.
Michael Ray McLellan, 34, showed no emotion during his first court appearance as the judge read through his charges, which include with first-degree murder, first-degree forcible rape, statutory rape of a person under 15 years of age or younger, first-degree sexual offense, statutory sex offense with a person 15 years or younger, first-degree kidnapping, felony larceny, felony restraint, abduction of child and concealment of a death in the death of Hania Aguilar.
“There was a hole that needed to be filled. And that hole was finding Hania. Hopefully, we thought she might be found alive. But as time went on, it became very apparent that she was dead,” said District Attorney Johnson Britt.
In Robeson County Court this morning McLellan asked for an attorney. The judge appointed the Robeson County Public Defender to represent McLellan.
Britt said that because he is leaving office later this month, he cannot decide whether this is a capital case. Instead, he will leave the decision whether to seek the death penalty up to Matt Scott, who won November’s election. Britt, though, said that based on McLellan’s previous record, the death penalty could be a possibility.
“This is a horrific set of facts. It has galvanized the community. It has galvanized law enforcement. It has galvanized our office. And we will do our talking in the court room,” said Matthew Scott.
At a news conference after the hearing, Scott, who is currently an assistant DA, said the determination had not yet been made. Britt said if it were his decision he would seek the death penalty.
“If I were the DA, and it will not be my decision, but if I were the DA, I would seek the death penalty in this case,” said Britt.
Investigators say Hania was forced into a family member’s idling SUV and kidnapped from her driveway in the Rosewood Mobile Home Park in Lumberton on November 5. The SUV was found three days later. Hania’s body was found in a body of water on November 27.
The FBI says with support from the SBI and the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, the Lumberton Police Department and the FBI followed more than 850 leads and conducted nearly 500 interviews. The FBI’s Lab at Quantico conducted a forensic exam of the stolen SUV. The North Carolina State Crime Lab provided preliminary test results on Hania’s body. The FBI says results of those tests, including some received on yesterday, and a thorough criminal investigation resulted in the charges against McLellan.
Records show McLellan’s criminal history dates back to 2000. It includes convictions for assault on a child, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary. McLellan was most recently convicted in February on felony counts of breaking & entering and larceny of a vehicle. He was sentenced to between nine month and one year eight months. He was paroled in June, records show.
The FBI says the investigation continues, and additional charges could be filed as the case continues. Final autopsy and toxicology reports are not complete at this time.
Late last month an Onslow County blogger reported McLellan, who was in jail at the time, had confessed and been charged with Hania’s death. When asked at the time about the report, a FBI spokeswoman denied there had been any charges or a confession in the case. Prosecutors denied again today that there had been a confession from McLellan, who also made a court appearance in the unrelated case on charges of and burglary.
The judge set McLellan’s next court date for Dec. 21.