ATLANTA — The cold case of an Atlanta 14-year-old who was raped and murdered has been solved by homicide investigators almost 26 years later.
On June 7, 1995, Nacole Smith was killed in the woods on the way to school in southwest Atlanta. Police said a man sexually assaulted her and shot her twice in the face.
Atlanta investigators announced Tuesday that the suspect has finally been identified.
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Using genealogy and forensic technology, the cold case unit connected the DNA of Nacole’s alleged killer to a man who died in hospice care of liver and kidney failure in August 2021.
Police said at the news conference that they would not release the suspect’s name because they do not want to give his name any relevance.
However, Smith’s mother identified him as 49-year-old Kelvin Arnold and said he lived near their home.
Nacole’s mother said she will always live knowing she didn’t get to confront her daughter’s alleged killer.
“I never imagined this person would be deceased. So many unanswered questions I had for him,” Acquenellia Smith said. “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.”
Former detectives who worked the case and investigators credited the bravery of a 13-year-old victim who was raped by the suspect nine years later in 2004.
The East Point girl was pulled into the woods, raped and escaped. She was able to give detectives a description of the man for a composite sketch.
The victim identified herself Tuesday as Betty Brown. Brown said she never thought she would be speaking but didn’t want to hide or live in pain anymore.
“He is no longer out there able to do the things that he did to me and Nacole and to others,” Brown said.
Brown added that she felt conflicted about the outcome and doesn’t want to let her rape control her life anymore.
But she also wants the suspect’s family to know the pain that her family felt for the past 18 years.
“To know the man who you loved, you respected did something so horrible to me and Nacole, I want you to live in that. I want you to wear that like I did. Like I do every day of my life,” Brown said.
“I’m mad I didn’t get that opportunity to face him and look him in his eyes.”
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Retired Atlanta police Detective Vince Velazquez worked both Smith and Brown’s cases.
He said the department and East Point police put a lot of effort and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars into identifying the suspect.
Velazquez said they put the composite sketch on “America’s Most Wanted” and billboards and spoke with hundreds of people around the country.
Velazquez worked the case until his retirement in 2017. Detective Scott Demeester took over the case and said it took three years to find a person of interest and get his DNA.
The final breakthrough came through around Christmas 2021. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s forensics team matched the DNA profile to the suspect in both rapes.
“I was just glad to be able to make that phone call to Mrs. Smith. It was an emotional phone call,” Demeester said.
Velazquez and Demeester kept in touch with Brown and Smith’s family throughout the years.
“I thank you detectives for sticking with me through all these years, checking on me and making sure I’m OK. I appreciate you because I needed that,” Brown told investigators.
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