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News Rape investigation being handled by federal authorities

Incident occured in Nantahala National Forest

After an incident, which according to the Macon County 911 media report occurred Sunday around 4:31 p.m. in the Nantahala National Forest near Wayah Rd, federal authorities have taken charge of the investigation and are being assisted by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Stevin Wescott, representative for the United States Forest Service, because the investigation is still ongoing, details regarding the case are limited to ensure the safety of the general public. “We understand the urgency involved in the case and hold the best interest and safety of all of our visitors as a top priority.”

Wescott was able to confirm that authorities are investigating an alleged rape that reportedly occurred on a Forest Service Road, making it a federal case.

Wescott stated that the USFS is referring all further inquires to Lia Bantavani with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte. Bantavani confirmed that she has been informed of the investigation and is prepared to handle the case if and when it reached the prosecution stage. According to Bantavani, the case is still being investigated and neither she nor her office have any information to release at this time.

Because the investigation is still ongoing, Wescott was unable to confirm or deny whether a suspect was in custody or if there were any leads on the case.

Wescott did want to emphasize the importance of safety and public awareness within the Nantahala National Forest. “It’s possible to encounter someone who is angry, intoxicated or armed,” noted Wescott. “The forest is open to the public so it is always a possibility.”

Wescott urges the public to remain alert and cautious whenever visiting the Park and to take all necessary precautions to remain safe. “Always remember to lock your car. It may sound simple but a lot of people forget to do so,” continued Wescott. “Those who are camping should research the area where they will be and know their surroundings and whenever possible to never hike alone, not just because of the risks of encountering a stranger but for safety issues like twisting an ankle or becoming dehydrated.” He also urged citizens to inform law enforcement as soon as possible in dangerous or suspicious situations and to never pursue a situation on your own.

Macon County News will continue to follow the story and update our website and facebook page as the information becomes available.


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