A detective in North Carolina has been fired after allegedly sending suggestive messages to women whose rapes he had been tasked with investigating, authorities said.
Paul G. Matrafailo III was dismissed by the Fayetteville Police Department in May after allegedly being found to have inappropriately contacted survivors of rape over text and social media, according to the dismissal letter reportedly sent to him and obtained by WRAL News.
Three women separately came forward to Deanne Gerdes, executive director of the Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County, to report Matrafailo’s behavior, she told the news station.
“Imagine being raped and then having your rape detective hitting on you,” Gerdes said. “It’s disgusting.”
Erin Scanlon, who agreed to be identified by WRAL News, said Matrafailo began sending her inappropriate messages in April over social media.
“It was shocking and inappropriate,” she told the Fayetteville Observer. “It was honestly a little bit unbelievable that he would think of me that way or think it’s OK to talk to me like that. It’s like, really? Another guy that is trying to hit on me when he is supposed to be a police officer.”
The messages, which came nine months after her case was over, were sent to her Instagram account that does not have her name in it and they included references to lingerie being sold on Amazon that was linked to on her account, she said.
“Jw [just wondering] why u [sic] have a wish list up?” Matrafailo allegedly wrote, including at the end an emoji of a face with a tongue out.
Scanlon kept the messages on her phone and provided them to WRAL and news website TooFab, which posted screenshots of the texts.
“Some interesting things on there ha,” he allegedly wrote, this time including a winking emjoi.
Scanlon said the exchange left her feeling again violated.
“He saw the scene, the safe exam, the rape kit which has pictures of my entire body,” Scanlon told WRAL.
Scanlon reported the incident to Gerdes, who said two more women came to her with similar accounts involving Matrafailo’s alleged behavior.
Erin Myers, who also agreed to be identified, said Matrafailo would randomly text her to ask how she was doing and then took what she classified as a “weird” interest in her pursuing a nursing degree.
“He was like, ‘Oh, are you going to be in a nursing outfit?” she told the Observer.
Myers said she dismissed the comment, but her husband did not brush it off.
“He said, ‘This is not normal behavior,’” Myers said. “It was suggestive. (Matrafailo) said, ‘Oh, are you going to be in a nursing outfit? Do you want to come practice on me?’
“It was awkward,” she continued. “I didn’t understand what he was trying to do.”
Myers said she didn’t respond to the messages and considered he might be exploring if she was flirtatious as it related to her rape case.
The messages stopped, but then Matrafailo allegedly texted her again when she graduated from nursing school.
“He said, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Are you still mad at me?’” she said. “I didn’t recognize the number. I said, ‘I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.’ He goes, ‘Don’t play me. You know who this is.’ It took me a second to realize who it was.”
She said she told her husband he had contacted her again and responded that she couldn’t talk, as her family was over for her graduation.
“And he’s like, ‘Oh you graduated. Let me take you out. I care for you,’” she said.
Gerdes said one of the women allowed her to inform Matrafailo’s supervisor about the inappropriate communication. A second woman also complained about his alleged behavior and that led to an internal affairs probe and ultimately Matrafailo’s dismissal.
The Fayetteville Police Department sent a dismissal letter by certified mail to Matrafailo on May 7.
Obtained by the Observer, the letter stated that on April 1, 2019, he was issued a notice of Consideration of Dismissal.
“The grounds for the Consideration of Dismissal were based on your actions outside of duty hours which diminished your ability to fulfill your responsibilities as a police officer and which could bring discredit upon the city and the Fayetteville Police Department,” the letter reportedly said.
The letter noted Matrafailo had previously been reprimanded on May 31, 2018, for “unbecoming conduct for sending inappropriate and offensive comments and sharing video of a case to someone not working on the case.”
An investigation into the alleged communication is underway, but no criminal charges have been filed against Matrafailo, Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said.
Matrafailo declined to comment on the allegations when reached by the Observer.
The women who have come forward about their alleged experiences with the former detective are undergoing counseling, Gerdes said.
“We’re helping them through everything they've been through," she said.