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Spc. investigated in series of sexual assaults

Feb. 13, 2010 - 01:22PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 13, 2010 - 01:22PM  |  
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The Army has charged a Fort Bragg soldier suspected in a string of Fayetteville, N.C.-area sexual assaults, according to Army and police officials.

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The Army has charged a Fort Bragg soldier suspected in a string of Fayetteville, N.C.-area sexual assaults, according to Army and police officials.

Army Criminal Investigation Command apprehended Spc. Aaron M. Pernell, 22, of the 82nd Airborne Division, as local police were investigating him in connection with several assaults stretching from June to December.

"We're comparing notes, comparing evidence from the cases," said Lt. Chris Davis, a Fayetteville police spokesman. "I can't get into specifics, but we're waiting on those results to come back."

Television station WTVD in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., reported a DNA connection between one of the Fayetteville cases and a case in neighboring Hope County.

Pernell, an indirect fire infantryman with the 82nd's 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, was apprehended Jan 29 on post. He was charged Feb. 1 with two burglaries and a sexual assault that occurred on post in December, said Maj. Brian Fickel, an Army spokesman. Pernell is being held in pre-trial confinement.

Pernell joined the Army in March 2006, trained at Fort Benning, Ga., and deployed to Baghdad between July 2006 and November 2007.

Pernell's brigade deployed to Haiti in January, but he stayed behind because of a pending civilian charge against him. He was arrested in connection with a burglary in September in Fayetteville, Davis said.

He is suspected in several assaults, which follow a "weak pattern," Davis said. Police said in each of the assaults witnesses say a black man wearing a dark cover over his face broke into residences and attacked female occupants.

Prompted by public outcry over the string of assaults, a dozen law enforcement agencies, including the Fort Bragg Criminal Investigations Division and Military Police Investigations, met to re-examine and compare their burglary cases over several months.

Pernell caught the eye of investigators because he allegedly broke into a home that was occupied, whereas burglars usually strike when residents are out, Davis said.

Davis said he did not know of another case in which a soldier was a suspect in a series of sexual assaults.

"We've had our share of domestic violence, homicides and stuff like that related to soldiers," Davis said. "This is an unusual occurrence."

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