Crime

Charges dropped against boaters in Lake Norman sex assault case

Iredell County prosecutors have dropped charges against two men accused of trying to sexually assault a 22-year-old woman on a Lake Norman sailboat in 2015.
Iredell County prosecutors have dropped charges against two men accused of trying to sexually assault a 22-year-old woman on a Lake Norman sailboat in 2015. Staff Photographer

Iredell County prosecutors have dropped charges against two men accused of trying to sexually assault a 22-year-old woman on a Lake Norman sailboat in 2015.

In a March 17 court filing dismissing the charges, the Iredell County District Attorney’s Office said it had insufficient evidence to try the case because the officer who brought the charges “has not provided a statement from the victim.”

Sheriff Darren Campbell disputed that on Tuesday. He said officers always obtain statements from victims to bring charges and obtain grand jury indictments.

“I just don’t believe that’s accurate,” Campbell told the Observer. “I believe that’s a mistake.”

The sheriff was out of the county on Tuesday and said he would look further into the matter this week.

An office spokeswoman said District Attorney Sarah Kirkman and the office’s administrative assistant were out of the office and unavailable for comment this week.

At about 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2015, deputies responded to a report of a woman screaming on the lake near Yacht Cove Lane in Mooresville, Campbell said at the time.

Deputies saw a sailboat just offshore near Cocktail Cove and signaled the boat to come to shore, the sheriff said. The two men aboard the boat said they’d met the woman at a local bar and that she’d accompanied them onto the lake, Campbell said.

The men told deputies they let the woman off the boat at a dock at Trump National Golf Club Charlotte, which is on Brawley School Road in Mooresville.

Officers eventually found the woman at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where she was treated for injuries she later told officers she’d suffered on the boat. Authorities have never released the woman’s name.

Arrested in the case were Robert Michael Weidinger, now 47, of Mooresville and his brother-in-law, John Richard Drigalla, now 48, of Blue Bell, Pa. Each was charged with first-degree kidnapping, attempted first-degree rape, assault on a female and interfering with emergency communications.

All of the charges have been dropped, court records show.

“My life has been devastated,” Weidinger, who lives at Trump National Golf Club Charlotte, told the Observer on Tuesday. “I’m struggling to put things back together. Charges appear to equal guilt, and they do not. I believe in our justice system, because the justice system will set the innocent free.”

Drigalla said the woman was a prostitute who continually screamed when they wouldn’t give her $500 and who threatened to call her pimp to physically harm them.

He said the charges still anger him. “I’m out $150,000 based on a false accusation,” he said of the legal and other fees he’s paid.

“They had no reason to do it,” Drigalla, an executive with a company that builds trade show exhibits nationwide, said of investigators filing charges in the case. “There was no evidence, because nothing ever happened. I don’t believe in the justice system. I think it was falsified information.”

His wife, Lori, told the Observer of the stress her husband still endures over the case.

“He should be happy, he should be relieved,” she said. But, she notes, her husband lost considerable weight and suffered many sleepless nights from stress over the accusations.

“It’s just a shame what innocent people go through,” she said.

Researcher Maria David contributed.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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