Valerie Hamilton, the daughter of Concord Police Chief Merl Hamilton, was out with friends Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning when she simply disappeared. She was last seen sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, but a video surveillance camera picked her image up leaving the Thomas Street Tavern in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a male companion. After her body was found in a mini-storage unit in southeast Charlotte, according to the Charlotte Observer, a murder warrant was issued for Michael Neal Harvey, a registered sex offender and the man believed to be the person accompanying the 23-year-old woman when she left the restaurant. Harvey has as yet not been located. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who believe the man is still in the Charlotte area, are asking for the public’s assistance in locating the man as the search continued into Sunday.
After a three-day search, which led from Valerie Hamilton’s apartment to an Econo Lodge motel, where a person matching the description of the man leaving the restaurant with Hamilton had reportedly stayed late last week, investigators made their way to the storage unit. Almost at the same time “America’s Most Wanted” was featuring her missing person story, the body of Valerie Hamilton was discovered.
Michael Neal Harvey is thought to be the man caught on video leaving the restaurant with Valerie Hamilton. Charlotte Mecklenberg Police admitted to searching Harvey’s house in north Charlotte but have as yet been unable to locate the man.
According to the Observer, Michael Neal Harvey has lived in North Carolina for five years. He lived in New York prior to the move. In New York, Harvey was convicted of a first-degree sex offense, a felony. According to the North Carolina Department of Corrections, the 34-year-old man is a registered sex offender and has amassed a lengthy criminal record during his stay in North Carolina.
Records indicate that Michael Neal Harvey was arrested six times — felony breaking-and-entering, larceny, probation violation, heroin possession, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and felony breaking and entering of a motor vehicle — all in a 22-month period. He was convicted of felony breaking and entering but served no jail time, receiving probation.
In addition to the murder warrant, police have also issued auto theft warrants for Harvey. He was last seen in a 1996 Chevrolet Blazer with North Carolina tage: ZXE-1756.
If Michael Neal Harvey is indeed the man in the video and the man who killed Valerie Hamilton, his recognition and potential capture highlights the growing importance of video surveillance equipment in police work. It was video surveillance footage, along with witnesses, that placed Joran Van Der Sloot at the hotel in Lima, Peru, where the body of 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores Ramirez was found dead. Video surveillance footage also helped California police narrow their search for reality show star Ryan Jenkins after the mutilated body of his wife, Jasmine Fiore, was found in a suitcase in a dumpster.