A Spartanburg man is behind bars in connection with a previously unsolved sexual assault and killing of a 7-year-old North Carolina girl dating back to 1990, the Greensboro Police Department announced on Tuesday.
Donald Preston Ferguson, 52, was taken into custody after advances in forensic technology linked him to the 23-year-old case, police said. Police said they have filed first-degree murder and first-degree sex offense charges against him.
Police said 7-year-old Shalonda S. Poole went missing in July 1990, and her body was found with signs of sexual assault and strangulation near an elementary school the next day.
Police said Ferguson left the Greensboro area in August 1990, and in October of that year, he was charged and convicted of a sexual assault in Spartanburg. He was released from the Department of Corrections in 1997 and has been on probation until his arrest Tuesday, police said.
"We never stopped looking for the person responsible for the crimes against Shalonda," said Capt. Mike Richey, commander of Greensboro Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division.
Police said Ferguson, who was 29 in 1990, worked occasionally in the area of Shalonda's Hampton Homes residence.
Ferguson was taken into custody at his home along Carson Avenue in Spartanburg on Tuesday by U.S. Marshals, according to police.
A Spartanburg County judge denied Ferguson bond early Wednesday morning. Ferguson will be held in Spartanburg County until he is extradited back to North Carolina. Greensboro police are expected to pick him up Wednesday.
The family of Shalonda said they never lost hope that someone would be brought to justice.
"They said it's official. We got her killer," Shalonda's mother Maryilyn Poole told WGHP in Greensboro. "And we started hollering and crying all over it, shouting. That was the best feeling I've ever had in my life."
A plaque was unveiled in 2012 at a Greensboro park to remember Shalonda, who would have been 32 years old. A 5-year-old niece was also named after her.
FOX Carolina spoke with detective Mark Craig of the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office in the wake of Ferguson's arrest.
Craig said they will be looking to see if there is any connection to the Greensboro case and the disappearance of a 9-year-old Shelby, NC, girl. Asha Degree disappeared from her family's home on Feb. 14, 2000 and has not been seen or heard from her since.
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