March 8, 2007
Nelson County investigators believe they may have new leads on a 23-year-old rape case that landed an innocent man in jail. That man has since been released as the search for a new possible suspect begins.
The leads came from a private investigator in Florida who is looking into the past of Michael Andrew Nicholaou. Nicholaou killed his wife and stepdaughter in 2005 before killing himself, but now, investigators believe he may be responsible for a rape in our area more than 20 years ago.
"When I saw this guy, I remembered what Honaker looked like and I said, ‘I can see some similarities there’," said Mac Bridgewater, with Nelson County Sheriff's Office.
It's those similarities that led Nelson County Investigator Mac Bridgewater to reexamine a rape case that dates back to June of 1984. A woman was abducted along the Blue Ridge Parkway and sexually assaulted.
Right after, Roanoke Resident Edward Honaker was arrested and charged with the crime, a crime he would spend 10 years in prison for. He was eventually pardoned by then, Governor George Allen.
"I just want to enjoy something that I haven't had in 10 years, freedom. And I am enjoying the hell out of it right now," said Honaker back in 1994.
"There are people that were sitting on that jury that even today say, ‘I don't care what DNA says, this guy (Honaker) did it’," said Bridgewater.
At this point, investigators say they have only circumstantial leads. Nicholaou bears a strong resemblance to Honaker, and is believed to have been in the area at the time of the crime and has a long criminal background.
"If we verify him, that's great. If we don't verify him, it would be like a lot of other tips that we have gotten in this case that have never panned out," said Bridgewater.
Despite being unsolved for 23 years, Bridgewater says he is hopeful the new leads may bring a resolution to this case. "You have a responsibility to the victim to bring her case to justice," he said.