Stephanie Bennett death investigation timeline
May 21, 2002: A maintenance employee finds the body of Stephanie Renee Bennett in a first-floor unit at Bridgeport Apartments on Lake Lynn Drive.
Investigators say they believe a man killed the 23-year-old on the night of May 20 or during the early-morning hours of May 21.
Originally from Rocky Mount, Va., Bennett was a Roanoke College graduate who had moved to Raleigh in 2001 to work at IBM. According to her father, she had been planning to move to Greenville, S.C., in July 2002.
May 27: Investigators release a sketch of a man wanted for questioning in relation to Bennett's death.
June 3: Raleigh police arrest Christopher Campen on peeping charges at the Governor's Point apartment complex, which is located across the lake from Bridgeport Apartments. Using DNA evidence, authorities determine Campen was not involved in Bennett's death.
June 20: An autopsy report suggests Bennett was attacked in her bedroom, bound, gagged, strangled and sexually assaulted. The medical examiner lists the official cause of Bennett's death as strangulation. They believe the attacker never went into any other rooms in the apartment.
Investigators also release information that the attacker stole Bennett's 1995 compact JVC MXC-220 stereo system and that he may be holding onto it, perhaps as some type of memento.
June 21: Michael Teague, a profiler with the Raleigh Police Department, comes up with a mental snapshot of Bennett's killer.
"At some point, the victim and offender had to cross paths," Teague says. "I have to think if I'm looking at a crime scene, 'Does this appear to be a one-time meeting? Does this appear to be a relationship?'"
July 1: Family and friends gather for a vigil, at which Bennett's father, Carmon Bennett, delivers a message to his daughter's killer: "I want to know Stephanie's last words. Did she say anything that would comfort the members of her family? Did she pray? You took my daughter. Please give me some peace in knowing these things. We will not quit searching until our questions are answered."
July 3: Raleigh police use DNA samples collected at Bennett's apartment to check out a possible lead in the homicide investigation. Richard Evonitz, a lead suspect in the slayings of three girls near Fredericksburg, Va., and the kidnapping and rape of a girl in Columbia, S.C., have Raleigh investigators looking for a possible connection to Bennett's death, but they are not optimistic.
July 10: Raleigh police say there is no link between Richard Evonitz, a suspected serial killer, and Bennett's death.
Aug. 9: Police rule out Bennett's boyfriend, Walter Robinson, as a possible suspect. Robinson, who met Bennett at Roanoke College in 1991, says he wants to see his girlfriend's killer brought to justice.
Nov. 21: Six months after Bennett was found dead in her Raleigh apartment, frustration mounts at the Raleigh Police Department. Investigators say the search for Bennett's killer has yielded few clues. Lt. Chris Morgan says the search for the killer is like looking for a needle in a haystack, except in this case, even the haystack is tough to find.
Apr. 13, 2003: Nearly 11 months since Bennett was killed, family and friends gather in Salem, Va., at Roanoke College to honor her memory. The ceremony reminds her father, Carmon Bennett, of a day when he shed tears of pride instead of pain.
May 21: Exactly one year after Bennett was found strangled to death in her North Raleigh apartment, police say they have spent thousands of hours chasing leads.Lt. Chris Morgan says he is confident the killer will be caught.
"Every day, we come in with the attitude, 'What can we do today? What can we follow up on?' Somewhere, we'll find the answer," he says.
June 9: Raleigh police release part of a behavioral profile of Bennett's killer. Detectives say Bennett's attacker may have exhibited heavy interest in sexual activity involving bondage, use of restraints or role-playing. They emphasize that does not mean Bennett had ever been involved in those activities or that the activities are evidence in her death.
"Most crimes such as this begin as a fantasy in someone's mind," says Lt. Chris Morgan. "The tendency of people who commit this type of offense is to have acted out this fantasy in the past, possibly or likely, with a consensual partner involved."
Detectives say it is likely that the suspect has engaged in these activities in the recent past, prior to or after the murder.
June 29: Investigators say they believe Bennett's killer is a white man in his late 20s to mid-30s and that he may have had some kind of military experience.
Aug. 26: Carmon Bennett announces a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in his daughter's death.
May 20, 2004: Raleigh investigators create a videotape in the hopes of shedding some light on Bennett's death. The first part of the tape provides video of Bennett in her last year of high school as well as scenes from a 1996 vacation and Christmas. The remainder of the tape provides copies of video recorded at the crime scene.
May 24: Bennett's family files a lawsuit against Bridgeport Apartments that alleges "criminal actions" occurred on the premises of the complex at a "significant level," when Bennett was killed. The lawsuit also blames the complex for having "unreasonably large shrubbery," in front of windows, poor "exterior lighting" and windows that "would not effectively lock." Police believe Bennett's killer entered her apartment through a window.
The conclusion of the lawsuit is that the crime "would have been prevented," if the complex took proper safety precautions.
Carmon Bennett is suing for more than $10,000 in damages. The owners of the complex where Bennett lived are not talking about the lawsuit.
May 22, 2005: Raleigh police announce they are focusing on one person who was seen in the area near Bennett's apartment in the days and weeks before her death. Investigators say he has not been seen since.
They say the man is in his late 20s or early 30s and about 6-feet tall. He sometimes walked a dog and wore sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt.
Police also open a 48-hour tip line, hoping the public will phone in tips that might help solve the case.
Summer: Lawyers for Bridgeport Apartments file a motion to stay Carmon Bennett's lawsuit. Because of the ongoing investigation, they, as defendants, say they have not been getting access to police records.
Oct. 19: Raleigh police detectives serve an arrest warrant charging Drew Edward Planten, 35, with the murder of Stephanie Renee Bennett.
Police Chief Jane Perlov says authorities narrowed the focus of their investigation a few months ago to Planten, who moved to the area in 1998 to work for the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
Maj. Dennis Lane, of the Raleigh Police Department, says there is no indication at the time that Bennett knew Planten.
Oct. 20: At a news conference, police say Planten is the same man who was described as a dog walker in Bennett's neighborhood. He is also a suspect in connection with a peeping incident at the apartment complex prior to the Bennett's death. At the time of her death, investigators say Planten lived within a mile of Bennett's home.
Sheriff's deputies wheel a restrained Planten into his first court appearance because he refuses to talk or even stand. Restraining him, they say, is the only way to keep him upright.
Retired Raleigh Police Lt. Chris Morgan says that he had his first good night's sleep in three years.
"I felt like over the years I got to, in a sense, know her. She made an impression on me I'll never forget," he says.
Nov. 2 Authorities in Michigan say they are looking at whether Planten was involved with three unsolved homicides in the Lansing area.
They later say that Planten is a suspect in the shooting death of 22-year-old Rebecca Huismann, who was killed in 1999.
Jan. 2, 2006: A prison officer conducting routine checks at Raleigh's Central Prison finds Planten unresponsive in his cell.
Medical personnel are unsuccessful at reviving Planten, who is pronounced dead at 2:37 p.m.
Planten's lawyer, Kirk Osborn, says Planten hanged himself with an unknown object. He also says he is stunned by the apparent suicide and was under the impression that Planten was under 24-hour supervision.
Those affected by Bennett's death, including her family and investigators who worked on the case, say some questions they have, now, might never be answered.
Published: 2007-01-01 21:28:00
Updated: 2008-05-08 14:23:05