A man has been charged for the rape and murder of Hania Aguilar, CNN is reporting. Aguilar was a 13-year-old girl in Lumberton, North Carolina, when she was kidnapped in her driveway on November 5. A man forced her into a nearby car, and an Amber Alert was issued. Aguilar’s body was found last week in Lumberton, with the car abandoned 10 miles away. Now, 34-year-old Michael Ray McLellan has been arrested for her murder.
McLellan had attempted to kidnap someone in October, and turned himself in for that crime eight days after kidnapping Aguilar. This means he was already in custody when Aguilar’s body was found. He is being held at Robeson County Detention Center without bond. He was officially charged for Aguilar’s murder only hours before her funeral was held at Lumberton Junior High School in the gymnasium.
Her mother, Celsa Maribel Hernandez, gave a eulogy and Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” played throughout the gym. Aguilar’s father, Noe Aguilar, lives in Guatemala and was denied a temporary visa to attend her funeral. According to immigration attorney Naimeh Salem, he was unable to enter the United States because he “didn’t have enough ties to his home country, Guatemala.”
“I had hoped they would find it in their hearts to let me be there for my daughter’s funeral,” Aguilar’s father said in a phone interview. “It’s very sad. She was my princess. She will always be my princess.”
Aguilar’s grandfather and a maternal aunt were able to obtain temporary visas, unlike her father. He says he has not seen his daughter since 2005, but they were able to speak on the phone. Aguilar’s mother also sent letters and photos to update him on his daughter. Noe said he did not know how he would cope if he did not get to attend her funeral.
“Maybe I’ll get lost somewhere,” he said. “I don’t know how I will deal with it. I’ll either stay home or take a long walk alone.” Aguilar has since requested another visa, but have not yet heard back from the U.S. Embassy.
Aguilar’s classmates recalled that the 8th grader loved music, science, soccer, and baking. She had dreams of being an architect one day.
“There aren’t any magic words that will heal the hurt that our school community feels,” said SaVon Maultsby, the principal of Lumberton Junior High School. “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.”