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Wake DA: Evidence From Planten's Apartment Belonged To Bennett

Posted November 9, 2005
Updated December 10, 2006

— The Wake County District Attorney's Office confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that some items seized from Drew Planten's apartment last month belonged to Stephanie Bennett, but would not specify what those items were.

Authorities also released search warrants Tuesday that list the contents of what Raleigh police took from Planten's apartment and office that reveal more about the suspect in Bennett's 2002 death and link him to a six-year-old unsolved murder case in Lansing, Mich.

According to a warrant dated Oct. 20, Raleigh police investigators seized more than 350 items from Planten's apartment, including an arsenal of weapons that consisted of nine handguns, two shotguns, a stockpile of ammunition, 40 knives, two machetes and one sword.

Planten, 35, was arrested on Oct. 19 outside the laboratory where he worked as a technician for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and charged with first-degree murder in Bennett's May 2002 death.

There were also addresses listed in the warrants that Planten had printed directions to: an apartment leasing office in Raleigh and another to the home of a Johnston County woman who, at one time, also worked as a chemist for the agriculture department.

Police also found items that might relate to sexual deviance, including X-rated photos, movies, books, magazines and other products.

The warrant also listed other items, such as used crime scene tape, a lock pick set, handcuffs and keys, a book called "How To Clean Anything" and an article from The News & Observer.

At Planten's office, investigators seized several items including a document with the name of a former neighbor at the North Raleigh apartment where he was listed as a resident at the time of Bennett's death.

While no items in the warrants were specifically listed as belonging to Bennett, sources close to the case said some of the newspaper articles found referenced her death.

Planten Now A Suspect In Michigan Murder Case

The Planten search warrants also list a .45 caliber handgun found in Planten's apartment that has now been directly linked to the 1999 unsolved death of Rebecca Huismann, a 22-year-old woman shot in the head in her Lansing, Mich., driveway in 1999.

According to court records, Raleigh police originally made the connection after finding several documents in Planten's home that referenced Huismann. Sources tell WRAL that Lansing police took one of the guns back to Michigan, and after test firing it, were able to match the weapon with the one that apparently killed Huismann.

While authorities in Michigan have not said whether Planten knew Huismann, at the time of her death Planten lived with his mother about 20 miles away from where Huismann's lived; at one point, he lived less than two miles from Huismann.

While the Huismann case has been reopened and Planten is now officially a suspect in that case, sources told WRAL that an arrest could take up to a few weeks.

Planten's Mother: Son Not A Killer

Despite the latest developments in the case, Planten's mother, Sarah Chandler, told WRAL that she stands by her son's innocence and could not "fathom anyone with his personality ever doing something like that."

"Drew was always a very shy, I call it, reserved person," Chandler said.

To her knowledge, Chandler said Planten never even owned a gun and that she does not think he was involved in either Huismann or Bennett's deaths.

Chandler, an attorney, knows her son as a young athlete, loyal brother and good student; not as a killer. She said she believes in the court system and believes in her son.

"He always had loving family members around him," she said. "Never, did he feel like he was alone in this world or deserted."

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