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Dad of murdered NC girl Hania Aguilar is refused US visa to attend daughter’s funeral

Lumberton police chief: ‘This is the outcome we all feared’

The FBI and Lumberton, North Carolina police confirm that a body found on Tuesday in Robeson County during their search for kidnapped 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar has now been positively identified as Hania, missing since Nov. 5.
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The FBI and Lumberton, North Carolina police confirm that a body found on Tuesday in Robeson County during their search for kidnapped 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar has now been positively identified as Hania, missing since Nov. 5.

Services for Hania Aguilar, the 13-year-old girl kidnapped and murdered in Lumberton, North Carolina are set for Saturday. But her Guatemalan father will not be allowed into the United States to attend the funeral, WPDE reports.

The man’s attorney, Naimeh Salem, told WSOC that despite a widely circulated petition and the North Carolina governor stepping in, immigration authorities denied the visa.

“They said he doesn’t have enough ties to the country to issue him a temporary visa to go to Hania’s funeral,” he told WSOC.

A petition on the site Change.org collected more than 51,000 signatures as of Thursday.

“The problem is Slain and Murdered Hania Aguilar’s father is in Guatemala and he needs permission to be Expedited to the United States in order to see his daughter one last time, say his goodbyes and attend her funeral. No parent should be denied the right to attend their child’s funeral- especially when Hania was a Citizen-born in Tennessee,” the petition started by Monique Cespedes reads.

Hania, a Lumberton Junior High School student, was waiting outside her home to get a ride to school from her family. Just before 7 a.m., she was forced into a running SUV parked in the driveway, a relative’s car, police said. A witness heard the girl scream and saw a man wearing black clothes and a yellow bandana force her into the SUV and drive away, police said.

The FBI says it is still awaiting official identification by dental records, The News & Observer previously reported.

“We are all heartbroken,” said FBI senior supervisory special agent Andy Delarocha the day after the body was discovered, adding that investigators have yet to discover how Hania died and who is responsible for her death.

“Last night I had to stand in front of Hania’s mother and tell her what we had found,” Delarocha said, pleading with the public to continue to call 910-272-5871 with tips for law enforcement.

Lumberton police and the FBI are still looking for a suspect. There is a $30,000 reward for help finding who kidnapped and murdered Hania.

People continued to add their names to the petition Thursday, which is addressed to the Department of Homeland Security, the Guatemalan Embassy, President Donald Trump and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, among others.

People left notes of support for Hania’s father on the online petition site. “Its the right thing to do. He needs to be here to say good bye to his daughter that had her life taken by a selfish person,” Diane Champion wrote.

Patricia Cote said, “Compassion is allowing a parent to attend their child’s funeral. Treat others as you would like to be treated in the same situation. Use your heart and not fear as a guideline.”

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.

News & Observer reporter Abbie Bennett is a charter member of the McClatchy Carolinas real-time team. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and has won awards for her investigative, politics and breaking news reporting.

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