Accused serial rapist charged in two 2016 NC sex assaults

(Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) — A man police are calling a serial rapist has been charged in two Charlotte sexual assaults that happened last year.

Police say they were called to a sexual assault report January 9, 2016, in the 2700 block of Clemson Avenue. The victim told officers a man broke into her apartment and forcibly raped her at gunpoint. He then reportedly took cash from the home and ran off.

“Most of the people around here were reaching for their guns, literally,” said a neighbor who remembers when police came out to investigate. “The lady who used to live there she went a bought a gun.”

The neighbor, who didn’t want his identity revealed, says the victim told him the suspect entered her place “through the back door past the dog.”

Police say the man had on a mask and gloves.

“And when I found out what was going on I went out and hunted for him,” the neighbor told WBTV. “I hate to say that this way, but you don’t do that in this neighborhood around me.”

Months later, investigators had another case.

On August 7, 2016, police say they were called to a sexual assault in the 8300 block of Runaway Bay Drive. A woman told them that a man broke into her apartment and forcibly raped her before running off.

“These were complete strangers to these victims that had broken in their apartments in the middle of the night while they were sleeping,” said Lt. Melanie Peacock.

Investigators say DNA evidence eventually pointed to Lance Rontavis Elam as the suspect in the case.

Police say DNA collected from both sexual assaults matched DNA in an unsolved burglary case in Midland, Texas.

Detectives say they continued working on the cases and developed a person of interest. They say they didn’t have probable cause to charge the suspect, but they were able to narrow the suspect field down to someone who was a person of interest.

On April 28, officers in Blufton, South Carolina, arrested Elam for sexual assault and burglary in their area. DNA collected in South Carolina matched the cases in Charlotte and Texas, police say.

Investigators say Elam has connections to all three areas.

In the Clemson Avenue case, Elam faces charges for five counts of first-degree rape, four counts of first-degree sex offense, robbery with a dangerous weapon, first-degree breaking and entering, first-degree kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

“I’m happy they caught the little piece of garbage,” the neighbor said.

Elam faces charges for second-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree breaking and entering in the Runaway Bay Drive case.

“This kind of case is really about the most heinous thing we investigate. It can be very terrifying,” said Lt. Peacock. “But I need to stress that kind of case is also extremely rare. Close to 90% of cases we investigate, victim and suspects are known to each other in some capacity.”

Elam is currently in custody in Blufton.

Anyone with additional information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

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