RALEIGH, N.C. — The investigation of a man charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Raleigh woman three years ago has extended beyond North Carolina and into his home state of Michigan.
Planten was arrested Oct. 19 as a suspect in the death of 23-year-old Stephanie Bennett, who was found dead in her North Raleigh apartment in May 2002.
After his arrest, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Planten's DNA was tested against about 64,000 samples in the state's DNA database to see if he could be connected to other crimes.
"Right now, this evidence from the crime scene of Stephanie Bennett's murder has not matched up with any other cases," Cooper said.
But WRAL has learned that Lansing, Mich., authorities are interested in evidence Raleigh investigators collected at Planten's apartment to see if he could be connected to three unsolved murder cases there, including the death of Rebecca Huismann, an exotic dancer who, in October 1999, was found dead from a gunshot to the head in the parking lot of her apartment complex.
"We are talking to authorities in Michigan," Raleigh Police Maj. Dennis Lane told WRAL. "(We are) talking to them in reference to an investigation."
A former Ingham County, Mich., prosecutor told WRAL on Wednesday that he remembers the Huismann case and how puzzling it was. He said that in his experience, Michigan investigators would not be interested in Planten unless there was solid evidence in Raleigh that could help solve the case.
WRAL has learned that, at one point, Planten lived at a house about two miles away from Huismann's apartment in Lansing, a city of about 500,000 residents. It is unclear, however, whether he lived there at the time of her death.
Michigan investigators are also trying to see if there is any link to a case similar to Bennett's death and a third case, which may be a "long shot," according to authorities.
The State Bureau of Investigation said that, so far, Michigan authorities have not contacted the agency in reference to any of their cases.
Meanwhile, Planten's attorney said his client, who had initially been unresponsive to Raleigh police when he was arrested, was now talking, at least to him, and was recently visited by his mother, an attorney in Michigan.