By WECT Staff | May 20, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT – Updated May 20 at 7:41 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A Florida man has been found guilty of raping a woman in Wilmington more than 20 years ago.
Wayne Soller, 63, was convicted of second-degree rape, first-degree burglary, and first-degree sex offense in a New Hanover County courtroom Thursday afternoon.
In September 1996, a 24-year-old teacher, who was living at an apartment complex off St. John’s Court near Independence Mall, says she woke up in the middle of the night with a strange man on top of her. He punched her in the face, put a pillow over her face so no one would hear her scream, and raped her.
The case went unsolved for decades until the victim called Wilmington police in 2018, and asked them to test her rape kit. It had been sitting on the shelf untested with thousands of other rape kits across the state, until the legislature finally approved funding to test them.
The DNA from her kit matched Soller, who lived in Florida and had his DNA put into a national database in 2014 after getting into a scuffle with a police officer. He’d come to Wilmington in 1996 to do construction work following the hurricanes.
He insisted he and the victim had consensual sex.
Attorneys for both sides wrapped closing arguments Wednesday evening, and jury deliberations began Thursday morning. Soller was sentenced to 25-30 years in prison.
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