Michael Ray McLellan is accused in the abduction and murder of North Carolina teenager Hania Aguilar, a 13-year-old girl from North Carolina who was grabbed in broad daylight from her own driveway.
There was an Amber Alert and massive search for the teen, and police released surveillance video that they said showed a man walking near her home. Michael Ray McLellan, 34, has been in the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office since November 13, 2018. On December 8, 2018, authorities revealed that they had arrested him in connection with Aguilar’s murder.
On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the FBI’s Charlotte office announced on Twitter that a body was found in an area being searched by agents looking for Hania. The FBI asked people to pray for Hania and her family, and the body was later identified as that of Hania. Authorities say DNA evidence led them to McClellan.
According to the FBI, her full name is Hania Noelia Aguilar. The 8th grader disappeared on November 5, 2018 from Lumberton, North Carolina. Authorities had launched an aggressive effort to find her that was predicated on community engagement, in part.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Michael McLellan Has Been in Custody Since His Arrest in an Unrelated Kidnapping Case
Michael McLellan has been in custody since November 13, 2018 in an unrelated case, jail records show. He is in the custody of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. According to WPDE-TV, McLellan was charged with second-degree kidnapping and attempted robbery.
McLellan is accused of attacking a woman outside of her home on Pittman Street in the Fairmont neighborhood of Robeson County, Fairmont Police Chief Jon Edwards told the news station. The incident occurred on October 15. Police said McLellan approached a woman wearing dark clothing with a mask on his face and pointed a gun at the victim. He then tried to take her car and asked her for money, according to police. He then left the scene without hurting the woman, police said. McLellan turned himself in to police on November 13 after an investigation. He appeared in court for a bond hearing that same day.
According to jail records, he is being held on $2 million bail.
McLellan’s Facebook page shows he lives in Lumberton, North Carolina, and is originally from Fairmont. He attended Fairmont High School. His page says he has worked as a landscape gardener.
2. A Man Wearing a Yellow Bandana Forced Hania Aguilar Into a Ford Expedition, Authorities Say
The Lumberton Police Department and the FBI were both investigating the kidnapping of Hania Noelia Aguilar. “Hania is a Hispanic female, five feet tall, weighing approximately 126 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a blue shirt with flowers and blue jeans. Hania’s family is working with law enforcement and fully cooperating with investigators to locate the teen,” the FBI reported before the girl’s body was found.
Here is the sequence of events described by the FBI:
According to the FBI, Hania “was outside her home at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park located at 3525 Elizabethtown Road, Lumberton, North Carolina, on November 5, 2018. A witness saw a male subject dressed in all black and wearing a yellow bandana force Hania into a green, 2003 Ford Expedition with South Carolina license plate NWS-984. On November 8, the stolen SUV used in the kidnapping of Hania Aguilar was found near Quincey Road in Lumberton, North Carolina.”
The FBI also released further details, saying, “Hania was outside her home at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park located at 3525 Elizabethtown Road, Lumberton, North Carolina, on November 5, 2018 just before 7:00 a.m. She had gone outside just before her family left to drive to school. A witness heard her scream, looked outside, and saw a male subject dressed in all black and wearing a yellow bandana force Hania into a relative’s vehicle that was parked in the driveway. The vehicle is a green, 2002/2003 Ford Expedition with South Carolina license plate NWS-984. The paint on the hood is peeling and there is a Clemson sticker on the rear window. An Amber Alert was issued. The Amber Alert remains active; the vehicle information has been removed.”
The girl’s body was then discovered in a body of water “about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the mobile home park where she was kidnapped” on Nov. 5, AP reports.
3. Michael Ray McLellan Has Spent Time in Prison & Was Accused of Shooting a Woman
McLellan has a very serious criminal history.
In 2009, McLellan was accused in the shooting of a Fairmont woman three times on New Year’s Eve. According to the Robesonian, “Michael Ray McLellan forced his way into 21-year-old Teena Lewis’ home at gunpoint before beating her and then shooting her.” She was also “punched several times, shot twice in the torso and once in the leg.” She was recovering from the attack at the time of the newspaper article.
The story says that it wasn’t clear why McClellan went to that house and a 2-year-old watched the attack. Police alleged he had been drinking heavily, the Robesonian reported.
In the death of Hania, Michael Ray McClellan has been accused of these offenses:
1st Degree Murder,
1st Degree Forcible Rape,
Statutory rape of a person under 15 years of age or younger,
1st Degree Sexual Offense,
Statutory sex offense with a person 15 years or younger,
1st Degree Kidnapping,
Abduction of Child,
Concealment of a death.
He was also charged with a 2016 rape and could face the death penalty.
According to North Carolina Department of Public Safety records, McLellan has spent time in prison. He was jailed most recently on February 8, 2018, on a felony breaking and entering charge and was released from custody on June 6, 2018. He remains on parole until March 3, 2019.
In 2007, he was sentenced to jail in connection to a 2005 case on charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or seriously injure and first-degree burglary. He was on parole until 2016 in that case. He also has a previous conviction for assault on a child.
4. Authorities Had Released Surveillance Video in the Case
In the Hania Aguilar case, the vehicle used in the kidnapping was eventually found.
“The stolen SUV was found just before 8:00 a.m. on November 8 off Quincey Drive in Lumberton, North Carolina,” the FBI reports.
“Someone called 911 and said they saw the vehicle backed into the woods. We immediately secured the scene and brought in the FBI’s Evidence Response Team to process the vehicle for evidence to find Hania.”
The suspect was wearing all black. “The 911 call to report Hania’s abduction was made by a neighbor when a relative ran over to get help. The call came in to the Robeson County Communications Center at 6:54 in the morning on November 5, 2018,” the FBI says.
“A female caller speaking Spanish was on the line, and the Robeson County dispatcher quickly requested a Spanish translator to join the call. Initial reports during the 911 described the abductor as a black male. During follow-up interviews, investigators determined the witness had not seen the race of the abductor because he was wearing all black, including long sleeves, and a yellow bandana over his face. The information was transferred to the Lumberton Police Department who received the call at 6:58 a.m.”
According to ABC 11, the SUV belonged to Hania’s family. “Hania was warming up her family’s Ford Expedition before school when a man in a bandanna shoved her into the SUV and took off,” the television station reported.
Authorities have released several surveillance videos in the case showing a mysterious man walking near the scene.
The FBI wrote with the above video, “The Lumberton Police Department and the FBI ask for continued assistance with the investigation into the kidnapping of 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar on November 5, 2018. Investigators have released surveillance footage of a person seen walking on surveillance video near the kidnapping scene. If you have any information as to the identity of this individual or any information in this case, contact the tip line at (910) 272-5871.”
The FBI released several videos. The videos “show what appears to be a man wearing light-colored shoes, a light-colored shirt, and a hoodie walking down Lambeth Street and then turns left on Highway 41/Elizabethtown Highway towards the Rosewood Mobile Home Park. Several vehicles were seen on the video driving by,” the FBI reported.
“Someone knows this man and we need you to call us. Maybe you recognize the way he walks, his mannerisms, or maybe he will recognize himself on TV. The public was critical in the recovery of the SUV, now we need you to come through again for us. Who is the man on the video?”, said Supervisory Resident Agent Andy Delarocha, FBI.
Authorities need the public’s help. “A special tip line has been established to help find Hania; call 910-272-5871 if you have information to help investigators with the case. If you live or own a business on or around Quincey Road, and have a video surveillance camera system, please call our tip line at 910-272-5871. You can also call the Lumberton Police Department at 910-671-3845,” the FBI says.
The Lumberton Police and the FBI were also “asking the public to be on the lookout for a pair of shoes that belong to 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar,” police wrote on Facebook.
“Hania’s family recently purchased a new and very distinctive pair of sneakers for her. They are Adidas brand, white sneakers with black stripes, and colorful stitching on the back heel of the shoe,” said the police statement.
“Think through what you’ve seen since November 5th, have you seen a discarded pair of shoes, did someone try to sell you shoes, did they show up in a donation bin? We want to make sure we draw attention to the shoes because they are distinctive and the kidnapper could try and get rid of them for that reason,” said FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Andy De la Rocha.
The FBI’s Charlotte office has also shared the Milwaukee FBI’s tweet about another missing 13-year-old. Jayme Closs, of Barron, Wisconsin, disappeared from her home on October 15, 2018. Her parents were found shot to death inside the family’s rural residence. Authorities have not revealed any suspects or motive in that disappearance.
There is no public information at this point indicating the two cases might be connected, however.
5. Hania’s Family Calls Her Their ‘Princess’ & Her Dad Is Fighting for a Visa
Hania’s father, Noe Aguilar, was “denied a temporary visa” by the US State Department to come to America from Guatemala to attend his daughter’s funeral, according to CNN.
“I had hoped they would find it in their hearts to let me be there for my daughter’s funeral,” Aguilar told CNN. North Carolina’s governor has asked the U.S. Government to reconsider.
According to Shelley Lynch of FBI Charlotte, “Hania’s family calls her their princess, and they desperately miss her, and they just want their princess home.” Authorities have said they don’t believe Hania knew the person who abducted her.
Authorities have criticized social media posts trashing Hania’s mother.
Hania’s mother Elsa Hernandez wrote a letter to the public in Spanish. Lumberton police translated it, and posted it in Facebook. It reads, “I trust in God that my daughter will return. No one knows the pain I have in my heart. Despite all the criticism and speculation against me, I would never use my daughter’s name in order to take advantage of this situation. I thank all those people who have provided me help. Please, if you know something, call. I ask everyone not to make absurd comments. For the love of God respect my pain. I only want Hania, my princess, back. I miss her.”
Elsa Hernandez told ABC 11 in Spanish, “I don’t have words to describe how I feel….Return her to me because I miss her. She’s a good, sweet girl.” Hania also has a stepfather named Miguel Barrera.
A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Hania Aguilar’s return. On November 21, 2018, Lumberton Police wrote, “Here’s the latest update on our search to #FindHania. There is a lot of investigative work taking place. Since Hania was kidnapped on November 5th the Lumberton Police Department and the FBI along with a number of law enforcement partners have followed close to 800 leads. We’ve conducted hundreds of interviews, some people we’ve talked to several times as we get new information and hope to get more details to help us find our Hania. We’ve done at least 400 interviews in person, that doesn’t count those leads we’ve followed with the help of law enforcement partners throughout the country.”