Hope Mills police looking at more sex cases

April 1, 2010 9:44:48 PM PDT
Hope Mills Police Chief Robert Hassell called a news conference Thursday to make the public aware of some new incidents that have his investigators concerned.

Hassell's department is part of a regional task force that's investigating seven recent rapes in Fayetteville and Hope Mills.

The task force also recently announced new charges against Fort Bragg soldier Aaron M. Pernell, 22, for alleged rapes in Hoke County and Fayetteville. That is on top of charges already filed by military officials for two alleged burglaries and a sexual assault at Fort Bragg.

Now, Hope Mills police say they're investigating three more incidents in the town. None were rapes.

The first incident happened around 6:30 a.m. Thursday. A woman was jogging on Old Railroad Way when she says a man was standing in her yard, then pointed a pistol at her and exposed himself. She ran to a neighbor's house and the flasher fled.

Less than 30 minutes later a man tried to break into a home on Hallwood Drive in an adjoining neighborhood as a woman was dressing for work. Her husband, who didn't want to be identified, says his wife is terrified.

"My wife woke me up around 6:30 a.m. this morning and let me know someone was at the back window," the homeowner said. " He had removed the screen. I got up and ran to the back door looked around but didn't see nobody had her call 911."

Hope Mill's Police Chief Robert Hassell says in both of the incidents the suspect's description is similar.

"I would say yes citizens should be alarmed," Hassell said. "Definitely can't rule out that the cases are not related, but we can't for sure at this point say they are."

A third incident was reported Monday around 7 a.m. Residents at an apartment complex on Hackberry Drive reported seeing a man peeping into windows. He fled before police arrived, but investigators say they are looking for a person of interest.

Chief Hassell says members of a regional task force trying to catch a serial rapist are looking into the latest incidents for any connection.

"We are part of that task force and we are reviewing their cases to see if there is a connection, at this time we haven't made a decision if it's related or not," he said.

Police said they were releasing the information to raise public awareness and to warn people to report anything suspicious right away.

Detectives are also asking for help solving the rape cases. Anyone with information can call the Sexual Assault Tip Line at (910) 433-1934.

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