Police announce arrest in 1996 Wilmington rape case

Wayne Edward Soller (Photo: New Han over Co. District Attorney's Office)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington Police say they’ve made an arrest in a rape case dating back more than two decades.

According to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office, Wednesday police arrested Wayne Edward Soller, 61, of Deltona, FL, for the alleged crimes. Today a New Hanover County Grand Jury indicted Soller on charges of first-degree rape, first-degree burglary and first-degree sexual offense.

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“Today here in Wilmington a cold case is now very, very hot,” said Attorney General Josh Stein at an afternoon press conference.

Stein alongside Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous and District Attorney Ben David spoke about the recent arrest and indictment Monday.

“This is a huge win because it tells victims that they matter. That the criminal justice cares and that we will fight for them,” said Stein. “But it also tells rapists that they better know that no matter how long ago they committed their crime, we are coming for them.”

Investigators say Soller’s arrest came as a result of a state effort to clear a backlog of rape kits.

“Untested physical evidence frequently proves to be the silent witness that screams the truth sometimes decades in the past,” said David.

Police say they believe in 1996 Soller broke into a young woman’s apartment, threatened her life and raped her while he was visiting Wilmington for work. A rape kit was completed, but investigators say due to regulations at the time, it was not able to be submitted for analysis.

“It’s ridiculous that they are sitting here in evidence lockers throughout the state and not being tested,” said Chief Evangelous.

Soller’s DNA was entered into the national DNA database in 2015, when he was charged with felony assault on a law enforcement officer in Florida.

A DNA match came after a statewide push by to process backlogged kits, police say. WPD says its property and evidence technicians have sent approximately 80 kits to the crime lab since this past October and have 61 more ready to go.

WPD says it received the test results about three weeks ago. The department says it immediately contacted the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force, which, in coordination with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, arrested Soller.

WPD detectives traveled to Florida to interview Soller, which police say helped bring this case to a close.

“Moments like this are why we do what we do,” Evangelous said.

District Attorney Ben David said at the afternoon press conference that he expects to coordinate the extradition of Soller to North Carolina.

“We look forward to hopefully future days like today where we can talk about an old case that had long since been forgotten, sitting on a shelf, having new life as we pursue justice for victims,” Stein said.