Local News

Grand Jury Indicts Suspect In Bennett Murder Case

Posted November 1, 2005
Updated December 10, 2006

— The suspect charged in the 2002 death of Stephanie Bennett was indicted by a grand jury in Wake County on Tuesday.

Drew Edward Planten, 35, of Raleigh, was arrested about two weeks ago and charged with first-degree murder in the May 2002 death of Stephanie Renee Bennett, who was found gagged, strangled, raped and dead in her North Raleigh apartment, investigators said.

It took less than two weeks from the date of Planten's arrest for prosecutors to take his case to a grand jury.

The lead investigator in the case, Detective Ken Copeland, testified Tuesday before a grand jury in Wake County, which took less than an hour to indict Planten.

"We expected the grand jury to return a true bill, and we are pleased that we've taken that step," prosecutor Susan Spurlin said.

Police have revealed little about the case, other than that a DNA match prompted Planten's arrest. They also searched his apartment at 418 Buck Jones Road and a 1973 Chevrolet Camaro. WRAL has learned those search warrants were sealed by a judge.

"It's not sealed forever," Spurlin said. "It's just sealed to give police an opportunity to do what they need to do with the information."

Part of what they are doing is comparing notes with other law enforcement agencies, including those in other states that may have similar unsolved crimes.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said his investigators are looking at every unsolved murder and rape case to see if Planten may have a connection to them.

"We'll be looking at anything that we think that could tie back into this," Harrison said.

Prosecutors also announced Tuesday that they plan to seek the death penalty against Planten.

"If aggravating circumstances do exist, the state should seek the death penalty," Spurlin said.

She said this case has aggravating circumstances.

The next step is a Rule 24 hearing in which prosecutors will ask the judge to rule this as a capital case. That hearing will happen sometime in the next 30 days.

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