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New DNA evidence links teen in West Acres shopping mall assault, kidnapping attempt to unsolved 2013 rape

Abdirahman Sahel appears Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Cass County District Court in Fargo. He was 15 when he allegedly attacked a J.C. Penney employee September 2014.Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

FARGO--DNA taken from the teenager being tried as an adult in an armed robbery and attempted kidnapping last fall at the West Acres mall has implicated him as the rapist in a 2013 sexual assault in a hotel parking lot.

Fargo police detectives are seeking an additional DNA sample from Abdirahman Sahel, who was 15 when he was arrested in the attack on a West Acres mall employee in the J.C. Penney parking lot in September 2014, according to a search warrant filed Friday in Cass County District Court.

A DNA sample collected from Sahel upon his arrest last year and sent for testing to the North Dakota State Crime Lab came back as a match for the 2013 assault, the warrant states.

The matching DNA was collected from a victim, who'd been smoking a cigarette with a friend while the women were sitting in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn outside their hotel room at about 2:55 a.m. in August 2013, when they were approached by a stranger.

The victim told police the man was slim and black, between 5-feet-9-inches and 6-feet tall, who spoke with them until they told him they were done smoking and were heading back inside.

That's when the man pulled a silver or gray semi-automatic gun out of his waistband and forced the two women into a fenced area on the hotel property.

Telling one woman he wouldn't kill her, but that she'd have to perform a sex act on him, she complied, she reported to police.

That's when he pointed the gun at her and threatened to kill her, simulating sex with her, laughing, and telling her again he would kill her if she told anyone.

The second woman wasn't assaulted but was forced into the fenced area, afraid she'd be killed, she told investigators.

Forensic scientists recommended police collect an additional DNA sample from Abdirahman, who, at 5-feet-10-inches tall and 135 pounds, matches the description given by the victims.

Sahel, a West Fargo high school student, was certified as an adult in the assault and kidnapping case by a Cass County court judge following a hearing which revealed he'd been on juvenile court probation at the time of the mall incident, following a string of petty shoplifting incidents and car break-ins.

He's suspected of approaching a 58-year-old J.C. Penney employee in the parking lot there and showing her a gun while trying to force her into her car. When she refused, he allegedly punched her in the face and ran away when she screamed.

His defense attorney, Ross Brandborg, was granted a delay in the West Acres case, pending a North Dakota Supreme Court hearing set for October in which Sahel will argue his adult certification should be overturned.

Brandborg said he had not seen the search warrant filed on his client.

Prosecutors declined to comment for this story.