NORTH CAROLINA — The man charged with killing 13-year-old Hania Aguilar made his first court appearance Monday, the Robeson County, North Carolina district attorney said.
Michael Ray McLellan also appeared on an unrelated 2016 rape case linked to him because of the investigation into Hania’s disappearance, District Attorney Luther Johnson Britt said.
He did not provide much detail on the 2016 charge, except that authorities had McLellan’s DNA from a previous case and investigators “got the results that we were looking for on Friday,” he said.
The FBI used a sample of McLellan’s DNA taken back then in its analysis of evidence from the car in Hania’s disappearance, the prosecutor said.
McLellan, 34, is being held on a $5 million bail in that case.
He was denied bail on first-degree murder and other charges related to Hania’s killing, which also include first-degree rape, first-degree burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
The public defender’s office will assign McLellan an attorney, Britt said.
Hania was kidnapped last month from her driveway in Lumberton, about 95 miles south of Raleigh. Police said the abductor forced her into a relative’s idling SUV and drove away.
The eighth grader’s body was found last week in water off a rural road in Robeson County, while the SUV was abandoned fewer than 10 miles from the home, authorities said.
By the time police identified McLellan as a suspect, he was already in custody for an attempted kidnapping in October. In that case, he turned himself into police eight days after Hania was kidnapped, CNN affiliate WSOC reported. He was charged with Hania’s murder hours before her funeral.
At her Saturday funeral, school officials, classmates and friends celebrated Hania’s life with song, poetry and letters. Her interests in music, science, soccer and baking, and she dreamed of becoming an architect, they said.
“When I look at all the outpouring of love and support for Hania every day, I am reminded that her life’s journey is really about the people who she has touched,” school principal SaVon Maultsby said.
Classmates remembered Hania’s perfect attendance in the fourth grade, and her interests in music, science and soccer. She dreamed of becoming an architect and liked to bake cookies and pastries, they said.
Hania’s father was not able to attend his daughter’s funeral. The US State Department denied a temporary visa for Noé Aguilar to travel from Guatemala to attend services for her, according to the father’s attorney, Naimeh Salem.
“I had hoped they would find it in their hearts to let me be there for my daughter’s funeral,” Aguilar told CNN in a brief phone interview Friday.
State Department spokeswoman Marlo Cross-Durant said details of individual visa cases are confidential.
A letter Aguilar wrote was read the funeral.
“You were and you are my treasure,” he said. “Rest in peace, daughter, my gorgeous princess. … You were gone before me, my gorgeous princess.”
While Aguilar said hadn’t seen his daughter since 2005, they spoke on the phone and her mother gave him updates and sent photos. Aguilar had lived in United States and moved back to Guatemala when Hania was an infant, Salem said.