Suspect caught in slaying of police chief's daughter

Michael Harvey, 34
Michael Harvey, 34
The body of Valerie Hamilton, 23, was discovered on Saturday.
The body of Valerie Hamilton, 23, was discovered on Saturday.
The CMPD is still looking for Harvey's vehicle which may be similar to this photo.
The CMPD is still looking for Harvey's vehicle which may be similar to this photo.
This is a picture of Michael Harvey from the National Sex Offender Registry.
This is a picture of Michael Harvey from the National Sex Offender Registry.

By Derrick Rose | bio | email | Twitter
Sarah Batista - bio l email
Kay Johnson | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Police say a man has been captured in connection with the slaying of a young woman who is the daughter of the Concord police chief.

Valerie Grace Hamilton, 23, went missing on Wednesday and was found dead late Saturday at a mini-storage facility in east Charlotte.

This weekend, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department identified Michael Neal Harvey, 34, as a suspect in the killing.

Harvey was arrested without incident by the FBI and U.S. Marshals around 10 a.m. on Monday at a home in Niagara Falls, New York, according to the CMPD.  Police said Harvey has family there, but police said the home where Harvey was found is not connected to the crime.

As of noon on Monday, CMPD officers were en route to New York to interview Harvey and to work on the extradition process to have him brought back to Mecklenburg County to face charges.

CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe spoke with the media on Monday about the early stages of the investigation.

Monroe said CMPD detectives were primarily focusing their investigation on three locations in Charlotte -- where Harvey lived off East 15th Street in NoDa, the mini-storage facility where the victim was found, and the Econo-Lodge where Harvey reportedly stayed after the victim disappeared.

Hamilton had been missing since early Wednesday morning after visiting the Thomas Street Tavern at 1228 Thomas Avenue which is located in east Charlotte.

Monroe said only a short amount of time lapsed between the time Hamilton disappeared and when she was found this weekend at the Mini-Storage Center on Monroe Road.

On Monday, the Chief said it is unclear if there was an actual abduction or if Hamilton freely left the bar with Harvey.

"The body was wrapped when we recovered it," Monroe said, but he would not comment on what the actual materials were.

The Chief said Hamilton's body and the materials were turned over to the medical examiner's office.

The CMPD says it is still looking for Harvey's white Chevy Blazer with North Carolina license plate ZXE-1756 which they say is connected to the case.

Monroe said they are not sure if Harvey drove the vehicle to New York, or if he ditched it in Charlotte before leaving.

Hamilton, is the daughter of Merl Hamilton, Chief of the Concord Police Department.  She worked part-time as a swimming instructor at the Little Otter Swim School in Charlotte.

The owner of the school, John Kirk, said she didn't show up for work Wednesday morning.

"If she wasn't going to be here, we always got a phone call," Kirk said.  "She made arrangements beforehand, so for her not to show up for her shift, it was just troubling."

Hamilton was also a student at Central Piedmont Community College according to information in which she posted about herself on an online social networking site.

"The entire community joins me and the City Council in offering condolences to Chief Hamilton, his wife, Susanne, and their daughter," Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said in a statement released over the weekend.  "None of us understand how something like this can happen. The only thing we can do is express our concern for this wonderful family."

Members of First Presbyterian Church in Concord where the Hamilton family attends, said the mood on Sunday was quite somber.

"I've just been feeling like jumping up and running in circles since she went missing," said Lina Gibson.  "I'm devastated for her mother and father mostly because I can't imagine what that must feel like for them."

Devastation is the word many have used to describe the situation after police discovered Hamilton's body.

"We can't understand how something like this can happen," Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt said.

A manager at the Thomas Street Tavern told WBTV that Hamilton's car was still in the parking lot after she was reported missing.  The manager said her purse and identification were also left in the vehicle.

A security camera was pointed at the parking lot where Hamilton's car was found.  Video from the camera has been turned over to the police department, according to a manager at the Thomas Street Tavern.  Police have also obtained purchase receipts from the bar at the time Hamilton was there.

Lance Washington owns a barber shop near the bar.  He said it's not unusual for people to leave their car overnight.  Washington said what is unusual, though, is for the car to have been left there for whole two days.

"What made it suspicious was there were car keys or keys left in the middle console and a pocket book," he said.

The CMPD has not provided a timeline of events leading up to Hamilton's disappearance and the time her body was found.  They also have not said what led them to the storage facility or who rented the unit where she was found.

This weekend, detectives issued a murder warrant for Harvey who they believed was with Hamilton early Wednesday morning.

"[He was] just a regular guy, no one knew who he was, so I'm assuming that he's not from the neighborhood," Thomas Street Tavern manager Katie Cannon said of the man she saw Hamilton with.

Police said Harvey stayed at the Econo Lodge on East Independence Boulevard in Charlotte after Hamilton disappeared and he checked out on Friday.

Police have not commented on the relationship Harvey had with Hamilton, if any.  Harvey is a convicted sex offender with a lengthy criminal record.  He has served prison time in New York for first-degree sex abuse.

If you know anything about Harvey or where his vehicle may be, call Crimestoppers at 704-334-1600 or the Violent Criminal Apprehension Team at 704-336-VCAT (8228).

The Cabarrus County Chapter of Mothers of Murdered Offspring and the City of Concord plan to hold a candlelight vigil on Monday at 7 p.m. on Market Street beside the Concord Police Department.  Cabarrus Avenue between Union, Spring and Market Streets will be closed to traffic.  Attendees are asked to park in the Cabarrus Avenue parking deck across from the police departments.

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