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Police identify suspect in 1995 cold case murder of schoolgirl who was sexually assaulted, shot twice in face

atlanta cold case

Jan. 5 2022, Published 1:21 p.m. ET

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Georgia investigators have identified the killer of a 14-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered while on her way to school over 26 years ago.

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On June 7, 1995, Nacole Smith was raped, shot twice in the face, and then left for dead in a wooded area in Atlanta. The case went cold, but on Jan. 4, law enforcement officials announced genetic genealogy and ancestral databases had led them to a suspect around Christmas — 49-year-old Kevin Arnold. Arnold, who was never charged, died from liver and kidney failure last August in a Fulton County hospice.

“I never imagined this person would be deceased. So many unanswered questions I had for him,” said the victim’s mother, Acquenellia Smith, WSB-TV reported. “I’ll live with this pain for the rest of my life. Just take it one day a time. There’s nothing more I can say right now. My feelings are all over the place. There’s not a pill that can take that pain away.”

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DNA evidence collected from Smith’s case was previously linked to the 2004 sexual assault of Betty Brown. She was 13 when Arnold allegedly dragged her into woods and raped her. She managed to escape and provided detectives with details about her attacker's appearance.

“He is no longer out there able to do the things that he did to me and Nacole and to others,” Brown said of her decision to come forward after police identified Arnold as her suspected attacker.

“I’m mad I didn’t get that opportunity to face him and look him in his eyes,” Brown added.

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