Michael Harvey (WNCT photo)
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RALEIGH, N.C. - Authorities in New York arrested a convicted rapist on Monday in the slaying of a North Carolina police chief's daughter, hours after the lawman made an emotional plea for help tracking the suspect down.
FBI agents and U.S. Marshals took Michael Neal Harvey, 34, into custody without incident in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He was wanted on a murder warrant in the killing of Valerie Hamilton, a 23-year-old preschool worker and swim instructor whose body was found in a North Carolina self-storage unit on Saturday.
Merl Hamilton, police chief in the Charlotte-area city of Concord, used an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" to ask for help from law enforcement around the country, his voice breaking several times as he spoke. He later described Valerie as a "perfect daughter" in an interview with the Associated Press and said he felt kinship with the officers tracking Harvey.
"Law enforcement across this country is like a brotherhood and a sisterhood and I'm hoping that they'll help me with this, and that they can get out there and find this guy," Hamilton told The AP before Harvey's arrest.
Valerie was last seen alive at a Charlotte tavern. Police have said they think Harvey is the man spotted on surveillance video leaving the tavern with her early Wednesday.
Hundreds of miles away in New York, the manhunt drew to a close on Monday at a house near where Harvey used to live.
The suspect was asleep on a couch at a male friend's house when 18 officers arrived, said Daniel Larish of the U.S. Marshals Service. The task force included state, local and federal officers.
Investigators believe Harvey had been at the friend's house since about noon on Sunday.
"We made entry into the house and he was sleeping on the front couch. He was arrested without incident," Larish said.
Larish said he showed no emotion and seemed "lethargic."
Harvey was expected to be arraigned in Niagara County Court and is being held at the Niagara County jail. Charlotte detectives are traveling to New York to interview him.
Harvey's criminal record includes a rape conviction in New York, as well as North Carolina convictions for failing to register as a sex offender and felony breaking-and-entering.
The slain woman's father said young women should follow the same safety rules their parents teach them as children.
"Be careful around strangers. Don't assume you know somebody when you don't. Stay with your friends. that carries over into your 20s, and when 23 you should be listening to that," Merl Hamilton said. "These young ladies need to demand respect and need to demand that they're kept safe."
Valerie Hamilton graduated from Concord High School in 2005 and studied nursing for a year at Queens University of Charlotte. She changed her mind about her future goals and decided she wanted to follow her mother into teaching, her father said. She'd worked at a preschool and taught swimming to children at summer camps and at a Charlotte swimming school, he said.
"I'd describe her as a perfect daughter and everybody who's a father knows what that means," Merl Hamilton said. "You just stay behind her, win or lose. To me, she was perfect."
Police would not say what evidence led them to Harvey or to Hamilton's body.
Detectives interviewed guests at an east Charlotte hotel Saturday evening and Harvey's home in northern Mecklenburg County was searched Saturday, but he wasn't home.
Harvey was raised in Niagara Falls. No one answered the phone at his former address Monday morning.
Associated Press Writer Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.
- Police chief's daughter found dead, search on for convicted sex offender
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