UPDATE (CBS46) — The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and the Atlanta Police Department have confirmed they have identified the man they believe is responsible for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Nacole Smith back in 1995.
A news conference was held Tuesday to provide a significant update in the case. However, authorities did not release the name of the suspect, only that he passed away in August of 2021 from liver and kidney failure.
During the press conference, Det. Vince Velazquez, who has since retired from APD and is a security consultant, talked about his involvement with the case over the years.
Velazquez says APD reopened the case in 2002 and in 2004 they got a forensic match after a 13-year-old girl was raped in East Point. However, despite their investigation, they were not able to identify a suspect at that time.
Det. Scott Demeester took up the torch after Velazquez and other veterans retired and spent hundreds of hours on the case.
Eventually, the police department was able to use genetic genealogy and match a DNA sample to the suspect. They were notified of the match just after Christmas.
Unfortunately, the suspect died in August 2021 of liver and kidney failure.
Nacole’s mother spoke during the press conference. She described the confirmation of the suspect’s identification as bittersweet, but said it did not bring closure. She says she still has many unanswered questions and her feelings are all over the place.
Betty Brown, who was the 13-year-old East Point girl who was raped several months after Nacole, was also at the press conference and gave an emotional statement. Betty and Nacole’s mother have become close over the years.
The Atlanta Police Department announced after the press conference that Kelvin Arnold is the primary suspect in the case.
This story will be updated throughout the day. Our initial story on the break in this case is below. CBS46 reporter Adam Murphy will have the full story tonight on CBS46 at 4, 5 and 6 p.m.
Here is the full press conference from Tuesday morning.
ATLANTA (CBS46) — The family of Nacole Smith says they now know who killed their daughter more than 26 years ago.
Acqunellia Smith, Nacole’s mother, reached out to CBS46 anchor Karyn Greer Wednesday telling her a suspect has been named in her daughter’s death.
Smith tells CBS46 that DNA evidence has helped identify the man who police say beat, raped, and then shot and killed her 14-year-old daughter back in 1995.
Through the use of genetic testing, and new ancestral DNA tools that were not available 25 years ago, investigators were able to find a link, and then come to a final conclusion on a suspect.
However, at this time, CBS46 is not releasing the name of the suspect, as Atlanta Police say they are following up on some new information, but not all the information has been confirmed. Police say they will announce further details in the case sometime next week.
Back in 1995, Smith was walking to school in Southwest Atlanta, but turned back around after forgetting a school assignment at home. She cut through the nearby wooded area, where police say she was attacked.
Earlier this year, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office decided to take another look at the case, by re-examining and testing evidence never tested before.
DNA from the rape kit taken in 1995 after Smith’s murder matched DNA from a rape kit in a separate incident in 2004, in which a 13-year-old girl was raped in a wooded area in East Point. There, the victim made it out alive, and was able to give investigators a description of the suspect.
CSI Atlanta had kept Nacole’s case in the spotlight and worked with a GBI forensic artist to create an updated sketch of the killer in 2019.
One year later, there was a break in the case, when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found a link through new ancestral DNA testing. Investigators were able to find a second cousin twice removed from the suspect.
But at that time, the next steps were uncertain, with investigators telling CBS46 processing that match could take several years. It appears that timeline moved faster than expected.
Tonight on CBS46, Karyn sits down with Acquanela and shares her story. Join on CBS46 at 4, 5 & 6 for more.
Editor’s note: An update this story listed the suspect’s name as Kevin Arnold. It should have been Kelvin Arnold. The story has been updated to reflect the change.