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Charlotte Area

New DNA Tests Lead To Man's Arrest In 1990s Sex Assaults

Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department

CMPD's Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit has charged a 56-year-old Charlotte man with two sexual assaults that happened in the 1990s. The arrest came with the help of new tests on DNA gathered in the cases.

Warren Lee Caldwell was arrested without incident on March 1 and charged with two counts of second degree rape, one count of robbery and one count of first degree kidnapping. He is being held in Mecklenburg County Jail, with bail set at $300,000.  

Detectives identified Caldwell as a suspect after new testing of DNA evidence collected in the assaults. The new tests were made possible by a 2017 federal grant that allowed CMPD to submit DNA evidence from 885 cases to a private laboratory.

That helped “relieve the burden of our lab processing all these cases. And then we got a DNA hit linking these two cases together and identifying the suspect in this case,” CMPD Sgt. Darrell Price told reporters Wednesday. Price runs the sexual assault cold case unit.

Caldwell has been charged with the rape of an 18-year-old woman in October 1990 on Samuel Street in Charlotte's North End. Police said the victim was backing up her car when she heard a tap and feared she had hit someone. The assailant forced her into the car and assaulted her, and stole items before fleeing.

The second case dates to Feb. 4, 1994, when a 17-year-old woman was assaulted while waiting at a bus stop in the 2400 block of North Tryon Street.   Police said a man drove up and forced her into the car, then drove her to another location where he assaulted her.

Sheriff's department records show Caldwell has been arrested more than 50 times before on various unrelated charges. He is a registered sex offender because of a conviction for indecent liberties with a child in 1995. He currently faces other unrelated charges, including violating a domestic violence protective order.

Price said he expects more arrests as a result of the new DNA testing.

"We're starting to get more and more DNA hits," Price said. "We expect this year to be a stellar year for us. Already in just two months we've made four arrests in four cases."

That compares with a total of 82 arrests among 2,886 sexual assault cold cases that CMPD has investigated going back to 2006.  

"So you can see this is is a huge jump in our arrest rate," Price said.