DNA evidence has linked a 49-year-old Charlotte man to the rapes of two teenage girls, including one case dating back to 1988, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.
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Zellie Edwards was charged Wednesday with two counts of second-degree rape and one count of second-degree kidnapping, police said.
Investigators say the first case dates to Sept. 29, 1988. A 16-year-old girl told officers she was walking home on the 8500 block of Nations Ford Road at about 11:35 p.m. when a man began following her. He then pulled her into a vacant apartment where he sexually assaulted her, police reported.
The second incident was April 19, 1994, at approximately 12:04 a.m., police said. Officers responded to the 1900 block of West Boulevard, where a 17-year-old said she was walking home when the suspect began walking with her. He engaged her in conversation before sexually assaulting her in a wooded area, police said.
Both victims were taken to hospitals for treatment and evidence was collected, police said. In 2017, evidence from the cases was included for testing as part of a grant CMPD received from the New York District Attorney’s office in 2015. DNA evidence confirmed Edwards as the suspect in both cases, police said.
He was found and arrested in Gastonia on Feb. 8 without incident. Police said Edwards has a criminal history but no background involving sex crimes.
“Prior to his DNA hitting on these cases, he was not identified as a suspect in these cases – nor did we know they were related,” CMPD Lt. Melanie Peacock said. Peacock oversees robbery, sexual assault and cold case investigations for the department.
Both victims still live in the Charlotte area and have been notified of the arrest, Peacock said.
“Both of them were very grateful and I think they...each made the comment that they were just glad they hadn’t been forgotten,” she said.
The CMPD Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit has reviewed 2,886 cases since it began in 2006.