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'We Got Pretty Lucky': Police Say Kentucky Cold Case Cracked, North Carolina Man Charged With 1994 Rape

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Source: Catawba County Sheriff's Office; Mega

Mar. 29 2023, Published 5:57 p.m. ET

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Police in western Kentucky say DNA evidence led to the arrest of a North Carolina man for a sexual assault and rape cold case from 1994.

“We got pretty lucky,” Owensboro Police Department spokesman Dylan Evans told Front Page Detectives Wednesday.

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Robert Shelton, 59, was arrested in Hickory, North Carolina last Friday and awaits extradition, officials said.

Authorities say he conducted a two-part attack in December 1994 on both sides of the Ohio River.

The alleged victim told police she was kidnapped in downtown Owensboro. She claimed she was sexually assaulted there, then forced to drive across a bridge into southern Indiana where she was raped.

Authorities were unable to determine a suspect, so it became a cold case. But the alleged victim kept checking with authorities from time to time seeking updates.

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An Owensboro Police news release says the breakthrough came last fall, when the Indiana State Police Laboratory reported it still had DNA evidence from the mid-90s. The investigation was reopened and samples were retested, pointing to Shelton as the attacker.

The Owensboro Times reports Shelton lived in Owensboro when the assaults allegedly occurred. He now faces charges of kidnapping and first-degree sexual abuse in Owensboro, as well as a rape charge in Indiana.

The police chief of Brookford, N.C. said Tuesday that Shelton was not surprised by the arrest.

“He was tipped off previously in March. And he didn’t seem to be fazed by it at all,” Willie Armstrong told WSOC-TV.

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“To know that this is right here is crazy,” neighbor Kimberly Green said. But others in Hickory knew Shelton was a registered sex offender.

North Carolina state records show Shelton already has spent more than six years in prison for rape, sodomy and sexual abuse. That was a separate 1996 case in Kentucky, where the victim was 13.

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