Raleigh, N.C. — A Georgia woman arrested in connection with the beating death of a 91-year-old Raleigh woman was extradited to North Carolina Wednesday to face a charge of murder in the 12-year-old homicide case.
Cathy Lynne Lentini, 53, of Cartersville, Ga., was returned to Raleigh shortly before 6 p.m. after her arrest Tuesday for the slaying of Beulah Dickerson, who was found in the bedroom of her west Raleigh home at 160 Pineland Circle on the morning of Oct. 24, 2001.
An autopsy found Dickerson died of blunt force trauma.
Lentini, police said, used to live near Dickerson, but they have not commented on a motive or any other details about the case. Lentini was scheduled to make her first court appearance at 2 p.m. Thursday.
In 2001, however, investigators said there were no obvious signs of forced entry, which retired forensic psychologist Michael Teague says is an indicator that the suspect and victim knew each other.
"There wasn't a lot of confusion in the home – furniture turned over, that type of thing," he said Wednesday.
Teague worked the case for the Raleigh Police Department in 2001 but is no longer part of the investigation.
"Even though she was 91, (Dickerson's) mind was extremely sharp," he said. "She had worked with the public for many years, so she didn't take chances, and she would never have opened the door for someone she didn't know."
Lt. Chris Morgan, a retired Raleigh police homicide detective who was a lead investigator on the case, said in a 2006 interview with WRAL News reporter Amanda Lamb for a book about an unrelated Raleigh murder that police thought Dickerson was beaten with a tire iron found in bushes near her home and that the tire iron fit the make and model of a car that Lentini drove.
Robbery, Morgan said, was the likely motive.
Morgan also said that, shortly after the crime, investigators questioned Lentini – who was known then as Cathy Piper – about the killing and arrested her on unrelated charges but never had enough evidence to charge her with murder.
According to court records, Lentini was convicted in Wake County of embezzlement in January 2002 and spent several months in prison until her release in June 2002.
She was also convicted on charges of larceny and obtaining property by false pretense in New Hanover County in 2000.
Lentini's aunt, Ann Poole, said Wednesday that her niece was estranged from family members in the Raleigh area and that she moved to Georgia a couple of years ago with her new husband and called "from time to time."
"She burned too many bridges," Poole said. "Supposedly, she had turned her life around and was trying to do better."
Police won't say what led them to Lentini after all these years, only that homicide detectives "recently were able to develop probable cause sufficient to obtain an arrest warrant."
Morgan said Wednesday that he was happy, especially for Dickerson's family, that an arrest had been made.
Capt. Norman Grodi, who heads the Raleigh Police Department's Homicide Unit, said Dickerson's death was among 19 open homicide cases – 12 of which are cold cases – over the past 20 years.
The oldest case is the stabbing death of 17-year-old Beth-Ellen Vinson, whose body was found Aug. 23, 1994, near Atlantic Avenue, several weeks after she moved to the area from Goldsboro.
"Part of (the Raleigh Police Department's) culture is relentless pursuit, and that is something that is ingrained in us as police officers and especially as detectives," Grodi said.
"This is the most horrific of crimes that can occur," he added. "The best thing that we can do (for loved ones of the victims) is to at least try to bring them some closure and do the best that we can, through relentless pursuit, to go after these bad guys."