Authorities have identified a murder suspect in the 1995 case of cold-beating an underage girl who was on her way to school when a man raped and shot her twice in the face and then evaded the police. investigator for 26 years.
Atlanta police said Kelvin Arnold, 49 years old, died in 2021 before being identified, brutally assaulted and fatally shot Nacole Smith, 14, on June 7, 1995, as she tried to take a shortcut through a dense forest on her way to school .
“There are literal boxes and boxes and boxes of data, reports and evidence that have been analyzed as it relates to this case,” homicide commander Ralph Woolfolk said on Tuesday It also announced the breakthrough and commended the investigators’ efforts to solve the decades-old mystery. “You can see the incredible tenacity and resilience, and relentless effort, not only from these detectives but an entire family that has endured something like this for 26 years. We can only imagine how that might feel today — maybe getting some sort of answer about what happened here. ”
After Smith’s brutal murder, Atlanta police interviewed “hundreds” of people, authorities said, and directed two recruiting classes throughout the neighborhood. Police said blood samples were collected from at least 50 people, but efforts to find a matching DNA profile were unsuccessful. The case cooled until Atlanta Police Department detective Vince Velazquez revived it in 2002.
“We don’t give up,” Velazquez said. “Twenty-six years, maybe 36, you know, until I breathe my last, I’m going to continue this case.”
Two years after reopening Nacole’s case, Velazquez said he received a call about a forensic wits after the same alleged attacker raped another teenager – Betty Brown, 13 – not far from where Nacole was killed.
“The Nacole killer is back,” Velazquez said, describing an attempt to spread information about the unsolved case on TV to find new leads after receiving a description of the man from Betty.
Efforts to track down the suspect, he said, proved futile until a major development was achieved years later, when investigators pushed for the use of genealogical and ancestral databases to identify individuals. elusive suspects.
“It took a little over three years but we were able to develop a person of interest,” said Detective Scott Demeester, who took over the case after Velazquez retired in 2017.
According to Demeester, investigators obtained a sample of the suspect’s DNA from the evidence and it was only after Christmas that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s forensic lab was able to match it to the DNA profile obtained in the whole case. of Nacole and Brown’s unsolved rape.
However, in another twist, Arnold was in hospice care and died in Fulton County last August of liver and kidney failure, police said. Arnold, who was 23 when he allegedly raped and killed Nacole, has never been arrested or charged in both the case and the police. tell WAGA-TV that he was not involved in other crimes.
Demeester recalls the emotional phone call to Nacole’s mother, Acqunellia Smith.
“My emotions are just all over the place, I don’t know what I’m feeling right now,” Smith said on Tuesday. “But I’ll tell you I’m in pain.”
Betty Brown said with tears in her eyes that although she didn’t feel closed off, she did feel a little bit of a sense of settlement.
“I’m very conflicted because on the one hand I want to get ahead and not let this control me, but on the other hand I want his family to suffer, because he’s not here to suffer,” she said.
“I want them to feel the pain my family has gone through over the years, knowing that the man you love, you cherish, you respect, has done something terrible to me and Nacole and I want you to live in that. I want you to dress like I did, like I do every day of my life. ”