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Traffic stop leads to rape arrest

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SELMA — What began as traffic stop in Selma led to the arrest of a Craven County man on 14-year-old rape charges.

Around 11:15 p.m. on Dec. 20, Officer Justin Vause got behind a gold minivan going westbound on U.S. 70. “I noticed that the vehicle began dropping its speed, and it dropped all the way to 10 mph below the speed limit,” he wrote in his incident report.

That made Vause suspicious. “I continued to follow the vehicle for a brief time and noticed it was crossing over the white fog line,” the officer wrote, referring to the white line that separates the road from the shoulder. “The vehicle was failing to maintain its lane.”

At that point, Vause stopped the van, a 2002 Kia Sedona, on U.S. 70 near West Oak Street. Inside, he found three people — the driver and two passengers, one in the front and one in the back.

The driver, who said he was weaving because he was looking up directions on his phone, didn’t raise much suspicion, Vause said. Neither did the front-seat passenger, and police eventually let both go after writing the driver a ticket for failing to maintain his lane.

But the backseat passenger was a different story, Vause wrote in his report. For one, he was clearly nervous, the officer said.

“I noticed the backseat passenger was smoking cigarettes one after another,” Vause wrote. “The passenger literally put one out and lit another one was I was standing there.”

Perhaps it was the beer.

“I looked in the back and noticed at the backseat passenger’s feet an open 12-ounce can of Michelob Ultra beer,” Vause wrote.

Or maybe it was the drugs.

“I asked him to step out the vehicle,” Vause wrote of the backseat passenger. “I noticed as he was exiting the vehicle a clear plastic bag fell from his person.”

That bag contained meth, Vause said. Also, the front-seat passenger told the officer that the backseat passenger had slipped him a pill bottle that contained both marijuana and meth.

Soon, a check of the backseat passenger’s ID showed he was wanted in Craven County on a 2005 warrant charging him with two counts of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old.

Police then held Felipe Galindo-Romero, 36, of Dover on the rape charges. He also faces one count each of possessing meth and possessing marijuana.

He was held under bond of $1,050,0000.