Community relieved after arrest of 18-year-old sexual assault suspect

Ravell Dominque McLaughlin

Last week, the Dundee Drive community near Bennettsville was paralyzed by fear after learning that a man broke into a home, sexually assaulted a woman at knifepoint and got away.

"People were unsure of their surroundings. They were worried about this happening again. We tried to stay in the neighborhood as much as possible. Investigating it," explained Lt. Jamie Seales, Marlboro County Sheriff's Office.

Seales says their findings led them to arrest Ravell Dominque McLaughlin, 18, of Bennettsville.

McLaughlin has been charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st degree, Kidnapping, Burglary 1st degree, Armed Robbery, and Larceny.

An investigation revealed that McLaughlin used a trash can to break in the second level of the home, according to the press release.

Another resident came inside and found McLaughlin in the home, but McLaughlin ran away, according to deputies.

Deputies swarmed the neighborhood for three days looking for evidence and clues that could lead to a suspect.

After no leads turned up, they released a composite sketch of the suspect.

"It's pretty close and what that is, that's just another investigative tool we use to maybe spark interest and maybe someone will recognize the person," Seales said.

Seales stated that the composite sketch, tips from residents and help from state police and other law enforcement agencies, they finally got the break they were looking for last Friday night.

It came in the form of a telephone call from DNA experts with the State Law Enforcement Division.

"DNA was the big part . Yes, DNA collected from the crime scene and hospital came back. It just went from there. We started following up on who he was his background and acquired arrest warrants and search warrant."

McLaughlin is being held at the Marlboro County Detention Center.

He is scheduled for a bond hearing January 28.

Seales said the victim is continuing to recover from what happened to her.

"She's very strong and her whole family has been very brave and very cooperative through the whole investigation."

Marlboro County Sheriff's Office, Bennettsville police, Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office and SLED helped in the investigation.