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Investigator found knife in ex-pastor's car

Posted September 30, 2009
Updated October 1, 2009

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— A Wake County sheriff's investigator testified Wednesday that he found a knife in Robert Reaves' Chrysler Pacifica nine months after the former pastor was charged with murdering a North Carolina Central University student.

"It would have been the very back passenger seat," Deputy Alfred Sternberg said. "If you go behind that, there's a rail for where that seat is, and that's where it was."

Deputy Alfred Sternberg Investigator found knife in Reaves' car

Sternberg said he also found a screwdriver along with the knife, but prosecutors did not offer evidence connecting either item directly to Latrese Matral Curtis' death.

Drivers discovered the 21-year-old's body the morning of Jan. 30, 2008, along Interstate 540 near Louisburg Road in Raleigh. She was stabbed nearly 40 times in the head, neck, chest and stomach.

Reaves is charged with first-degree murder in the case, and if convicted, faces a life prison sentence.

Other crime scene investigators testified in detail Wednesday about their work but said they were unable to find a murder weapon or any blood during an initial search of Reaves' car.

Also on the stand Wednesday was Maryanne Gafney-Kraft, associate chief medical examiner with the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, who described in detail the extent of Curtis' stab wounds.

Among the serious wounds, Curtis had two to the neck and 14 to the chest, including two that exited to the back. Gafney-Kraft said they likely happened outside Curtis' car, noting there likely would have been more blood inside than what was there.

Other wounds that hit skin and muscle could have occurred inside Curtis' car, she said.

There was a small amount of defensive wounds on her hands, leading the medical examiner to believe she might have pinned.

"In my opinion, her arms must have been pinned," Gafney-Kraft said. "If you have 14 wounds to the chest, your arms are going to come up, blocking those wounds."

State trooper Isaac Cooper later testified that he encountered Reaves' car on the shoulder of eastbound I-540 around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 30 with keys in the ignition, hazard lights on and the driver-side window rolled down. Also in the car, he observed what appeared to be a woman's green sweater on the passenger seat.

He then recalled sending a message to another trooper asking if that seemed normal.

"It just seemed strange to me the way the vehicle was left," Cooper said.

Cooper left the scene to respond to another call but noted that around 5:15 a.m. the car was gone. At that time, he noticed a car with its lights on across the highway.

Outlining their case before jurors Monday, prosecutors said Reaves killed Curtis because he considered her an obstacle to his sexual advances on his roommate, Steven Randolph, with whom Curtis had been having a sexual relationship. (Read more about Tuesday's opening statements in the trial.)

Randolph had rebuffed Reaves' advances, prosecutors said, and had felt so uncomfortable living with Reaves that he had purchased a gun and stayed away from their home.

Reaves, who was a minister at Cedar International Fellowship in Durham, claims he was attending a church function the night Curtis was killed.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Lindow said Tuesday that Reaves had no explanation as to why his car was out on I-540, said he wasn't familiar with the area and said no one had his car on Jan. 29 or Jan. 30.


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  • grayboomerang Sep 30, 2009

    Regardless of what she was doing...this was a horrific way to die. Pinned and repeatdly stabbed. While I don't condone the adultry, I certainly have compassion for this poor victim, this was senseless/brutal murder.

  • mac240 Sep 30, 2009

    The one call I hope he doesn't receive is from the governor giving him a stay of execution.

  • purplepat777 Sep 30, 2009

    This man is just one example of why I'm affiliated with a regular, "old-fashioned" protestant denomination. The man who is pastor at our church had to undergo psychiatric examinations before he was accepted as a "seeker" much less before he was accepted into the seminary.

    It's not my intention to insult anyone here but when you go to a non-affiliated church or to a non-denominational church you just don't know who your leader really is, nor do you know how educated or qualified he/she is.

  • dwntwnboy Sep 30, 2009

    Amv- the officer said he was called away from the scene before he could fully investigate. I would take that to mean that a dispatcher called with something more important than an empty car on the side of the road. The preacher aspect- well.... anyone can be called a preacher, but he did work at a church in Durham, at least it wasn't a church in his living room or something. I do agree though that the info on the "evidence" in the car is little more than "he had a knife in the car", but no DNA on knife or car would lead ME to think that maybe it's a different knife.

  • AM is Back to Being Immaculate Sep 30, 2009

    #1 If I go into my garage and call myself a car, THAT DOES NOT MAKE ME A CAR. Hence, just because a few people called him "pastor" does not mean he was really a man of God.

    #2 From the way this article is written, it appears that there isn't any evidence that he killed her considering that the weapons in his car haven't been linked to the woman.

    #3 The alleged sighting of his car by a state trooped seems faulty considering that he never thought to check out that car prior to leaving the scene.

  • killing_me_softly Sep 30, 2009

    You are right. And the sad, sad part is this; what is done in the dark... In this case it looks like there ws dark on both sides. There is always a danger with deception that comes in many forms and we don't get to pick what the outcome is.

  • rcrdngcountry Sep 30, 2009

    this guy, a pastor. he forgot to say who he was a pastor for.

  • Professor Sep 30, 2009

    Well, I sure hope he gets life in prison without parole. He will not be wearing a suit but and orange outfit. lol They should not allow him to be a minister in prison. He is a sheep in wolves clothing.

  • mrduright Sep 30, 2009

    @ killing_me_softly

    That women are as sneaky as men and better at covering it up.

  • killing_me_softly Sep 30, 2009

    ~~I wonder what her husband must be going through with all that he has learned about this siutation from the beginning until now.~~