North Carolina authorities charged 34-year-old Michael Ray McLellan early Saturday morning in connection with the kidnapping and murder of 13-year-old Hania Aguilar, an FBI spokeswoman confirmed.
McLellan faces 10 counts including first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, felony restraint and concealment of a death. He was already in police custody on unrelated charges.
Aguilar was kidnapped Nov. 5 in front of her home in Lumberton, where she was warming up a family member’s car while waiting for a ride to school.
A witness saw a man force the girl into the vehicle and speed off. The stolen green Ford Expedition was found three days later. Following an increasingly desperate search, Aguilar’s body was found around three weeks after her disappearance.
The arrest came just hours before a crowd of as many as 1,000 people attended a funeral service for the eighth grader at Lumberton Senior High School, local CBS affiliate WNCN reported. The group wore purple, Aguilar’s favorite color, and listened to Elsa Hernandez, Aguilar’s mother, talk about her daughter’s life.
Aguilar’s father, however, was barred from attending the funeral by the U.S. State Department.
Guatemalan national Noé Aguilar was denied a temporary visa to travel to North Carolina for his daughter’s funeral after the State Department concluded that he did not have enough ties to his home country, his lawyer, Naimeh Salem, told CNN. But Salem said that conclusion was not true, citing family in Guatemala and an independent business there.
“I had hoped they would find it in their hearts to let me be there for my daughter’s funeral,” Aguilar told CNN Friday.
He added: “It’s very sad. She was my princess. She will always be my princess.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) appealed the decision ― to no avail.
“This is not a visa for sightseeing or staying in the country,” Aguilar told CNN. “I’m fine in my own country. I have work here. I only wanted a day or two to bury my daughter.”
The FBI said Hania Aguilar’s final autopsy and toxicology report, which will reveal the cause of her death, is not yet complete.
McLellan was already behind bars when Lumberton Police Department and FBI officials identified him in connection with the death. He had been there since Nov. 13 over an unrelated incident, according to local news channel ABC 11.
Currently held at the Robeson County Detention Center, McLellan is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. Monday.