Local News

Ex-pastor's DNA was on murder victim's steering wheel

Posted October 2, 2009

— DNA evidence was the focus of testimony Friday in the Robert Reaves murder trial, with forensic experts testifying that a sample found in the victim's car indicated the suspect likely touched the steering wheel.

Reaves is accused of killing Latrese Curtis, a North Carolina Central University student, and leaving her body along Interstate 540 in Wake County.

Robert Reaves Ex-pastor's DNA was on murder victim's steering wheel

Drivers discovered the 21-year-old on the morning of Jan. 30, 2008. She was stabbed nearly 40 times in the head, neck, chest and stomach.

Although Reaves' DNA was found on the steering wheel, State Bureau of Identification agents also testified it was not found on a knife or screwdriver found in his car nine months after the crime.

A Wake County sheriff's deputy testified earlier this week to finding the items in a far back seat of Reaves' Chrysler Pacifica.

Although prosecutors did not offer evidence connecting either weapon to the crime, the state's associate chief medical examiner testified that it could be.

The blade, Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft said Tuesday, is 3.125 inches. The largest wound on Curtis' body was 5.5 inches. The force of the blade going into the body could make up the difference, she said.

Defense attorneys cross-examined Friday's witnesses about the probability of the DNA being transferred from Reaves' house, because Curtis was there prior to her death.

But SBI forensic DNA analyst Michelle Hannon said the most likely way it got on the steering wheel was by him touching it.

Also on Friday, an investigator with the Wake County City-County Bureau of Identification testified that he found abrasions on the back of Reaves' right hand and on the right leg.

Prosecutors have said that Reaves followed Curtis from his home that night and killed her in a jealous rage because he considered her an obstacle to his sexual advances toward his roommate, with whom Curtis had been having sex.

That roommate, Steven Randolph, took the stand Thursday, testifying that he and Curtis had had sex twice over a period of several months and that she was at his home the night before her death.

Several other women with whom Randolph had been having a sexual relationship prior to Curtis' death also testified about being harassed by an unidentified person, including one woman who said she had her tires slashed.

Another friend of Randolph's testified that he recognized the voice on a voicemail message claiming responsibility for the tire slashing to sound like that of Reaves'.

Reaves, who was a minister at Cedar International Fellowship in Durham, has claimed he was attending a church function the night of Curtis' death.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in this case, meaning that Reaves would face life in prison if he is found guilty.

16 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • leelou3 Oct 5, 10:38 a.m.

    Can someone please explain to the writers and reporters that there is a difference between 'pastor' and 'minister' so that they can stop calling this man a 'pastor'!?!?!

  • luvbailey Oct 2, 6:23 p.m.

    "But, these are probably not the same people who go weekly to guidance meetings on how to worship an inivisible sky dictator." - Hereandnow99

    God is not a dictator as we think of the word "dictator". He is omnipotent - all powerful. He gives us choice - free will - including the choice to reject Him or to even acknowledge His exsistence, as you do. He still loves you and cares for you, even though you reject Him. I know that I have very little chance of changing your mind, but I have to at least try. He asked me to.

  • luvbailey Oct 2, 6:12 p.m.

    It is not looking good for the defendant.

  • jigsaw Oct 2, 2:47 p.m.

    I can't believe that the court qualified a SBI crime analyst to testify who doesn't have any educational background in the natural sciences.

  • brewmonkey Oct 2, 2:15 p.m.

    1. yes, she was married.

    2. "Willa Mae "Poochie" Thorpe" - a-hahahahahaha!!! that's gotta be a joke name, right? 'Poochie'? on the back of 'willa mae'? heh heh heh...

  • MellowMelnJC Oct 2, 2:14 p.m.

    I have a few more questions also...

    If he felt that scared for "his" life enough to get a gun to feel protected when he was "at home" why would you bring someone (knowing or not) into your home to be in danger also?

    Why not move out yourself(Randolph)? I wouldn't continue to live with someone that I was so scared of that I felt the need to have a gun around them!

    Also I wonder If this is the first person that has gotten in the way of his(Reaves) love intrest? It would be intresting to know...I am betting this is not the first time this has happened.

  • Professor Oct 2, 2:10 p.m.

    I wonder how many of the women He(Randolph) was "seeing" that are glad they were not there that night?
    MellowMelnJC

    Good comment. The ladies more than likely thought that he was all of that with their flirtation. Now they know. lol lol

  • Professor Oct 2, 2:09 p.m.

    He is wearing his suit and tie daily to courts trying to look his best. It will not be long before he will be wearing the orange jumpsuit. He will good then too, except he will be in prison. They should in time allow him to pick up the garbage along side of the highways. lol

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 2, 1:57 p.m.

    Deathrow, many reasonable and logical people may agree with you, that such a predator as Mr. Reaves should have be removed from an oversight position. (and possibly prosecuted)

    But, these are probably not the same people who go weekly to guidance meetings on how to worship an inivisible sky dictator.

    And we have seen how other churches shield their law-breaking leaders, so there's a clear pattern to protect themselves, often regardless of circumstances.

  • Professor Oct 2, 1:50 p.m.

    The sheep in wolves clothing is not going to get out of this murder. Too much evidence is against him and all the witnesses. Life in prison without parole. He also should not be allowed to minister or counsel in prison. He is a murderer and we should not forget that.

More...