FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Fayetteville Police Department has reached a big milestone in a rape case that has been unsolved for 15 years. The department arrested a suspect linked to a series of rapes and kidnapping incidents dating from 2007.
Police said the suspect, Christopher James McMillan, was arrested after being charged with multiple counts of first-degree rape, kidnapping, sexual offense and communication of threats last month. The case went cold after the crimes happened in 2007, constrained by the limits of DNA technology at the time. However, experts such as cold case sexual assault victim advocate George Watson of The Phoenix Center said the department is turning a new corner in reviving and solving old cases.
"(T)he police department has worked, has done an awesome job in their efforts to, you know, clearing out the backlogs and helping these survivors out," Watson said.
Police said that an initial investigation from 2007 revealed that McMillan allegedly offered his victims car rides, then took them to secluded areas to assault them. The department was able to identify the 38-year-old McMillan as a suspect after testing rape kits by using a federal grant.
Watson acknowledged that while this is a triumph for the police department, revisiting the past can be painful for victims.
"If these incidents happen 20, 10, 15 years ago, and victims, you know, often move on with their lives, they get married, or whatever or they may have been traumatized all these, you know, all these years," he said. "So bringing a case like this that happened maybe 15 years ago, and oftentimes we traumatize them."
Police declined to say how many victims are connected to the case. This latest incident of the Fayetteville Police Department circling back to cold cases through arrests and follow-up testing comes after the department made headlines for throwing out hundreds of rape kits in 2015.
Watson has advice for anyone wanting to support a sexual assault victim, especially those enduring a trial.
"It's a long process at times, so being there for them, giving them available counseling and therapy, and just showing genuine love for them often gets these survivors through this process," Watson said,
Police encourage anyone with tips on the case to call Crime Stoppers. Also, anyone looking for support after experiencing sexual violence can call The Phoenix Center's 24-hour crisis line.