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North Carolina Detective Fired After Allegedly Sending Inappropriate Messages to Women Whose Rape Cases He Handled

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A detective in North Carolina was fired earlier this year after he was accused of making inappropriate advances toward women whose sexual assault cases he investigated.

Paul G. Matrafailo III was fired in May from the Fayetteville Police Department, according to his dismissal letter, a copy of which was obtained by TIME.

The letter notes that the police department received a complaint in March accusing Matrafailo of reaching out to a sexual assault victim on Instagram and starting a conversation that she later said felt inappropriate. He is alleged to have made a second attempt to contact the woman a few days later.

Matrafailo handled the woman’s sexual assault case in September 2016, the letter says.

“Although detectives sometimes follow up with victims, you had not spoken with this victim since shortly after her trial and she had never provided you with her social media contact information,” police chief Gina V. Hawkins wrote in the letter.

Following an investigation into his actions, Matrafailo was fired. Cumberland County District Attorney William West tells TIME there are no current charges against Matrafailo. The case is under investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, he says. The agency could not immediately be reached for comment.

Matrafailo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. He told the Fayetteville Observer, “I don’t have anything to say regarding that,” when reached for comment about the matter.

Erin Scanlon tells TIME she met Matrafailo in Sept. 2016 when he became the investigator in her rape case. The case ended in a trial in June 2018, with her perpetrator acquitted. In March 2019, she says she got a message from an unknown person on Instagram.

“He said, ‘It’s me, Matrafailo from FPD,'” she says. “He kept messaging, like ‘How are you?’ I would just answer politely. I didn’t ask him any questions.”

Then, she says, Matrafailo asked her about her Amazon wishlist, and commented on “some interesting things on there,” and adding things like winky faces and emojis with the tongue sticking out.

“It was very gross,” she says. “That was when I realized he was making it sexual, and I was not about that.”

While the dismissal letter mentions one victim toward whom Matrafailo is accused of making inappropriate comments and advances, at least two other women have come forward with similar stories about his conduct. Deanne Gerdes, executive director of the Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County, tells TIME a total of three alleged victims of sexual assault, including Scanlon, told her that the former detective, who handled their cases, had sent them inappropriate messages on social media.

“All three of them had the same thought process when they started receiving the messages. They were shocked and questioning themselves, like, ‘Am I reading this right?’ ‘Is he saying what I think he’s saying?'” Gerdes says. “There doesn’t seem to be boundaries for him.”

Gerdes says Matrafailo’s conduct was particularly shocking because she’s worked with Fayetteville police on a daily basis in the 11 years she’s served as director of the rape crisis volunteer group. She had previously worked with Matrafailo, she says.

“We all worked very well together. They have led a very victim centered approach in our community,” she says. “If that group of people couldn’t see the red flags, I don’t know that there is a perfect solution for this to not happen again.”

Scanlon says Matrafailo betrayed her trust after getting to know her from the time he spent working on her rape case.

“It was really disappointing to be sexualized by someone who you’re supposed to be able to trust,” she says. “He knew everything about me at that point in my life.”

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com