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Police focus on random attack in schools official's death

Posted April 13, 2010
Updated April 14, 2010

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— Investigators have eliminated friends and relatives of Kathy Taft as suspects in the March attack that led to the State Board of Education member's death, sources told WRAL News Tuesday.

Taft, 62, died March 9 at WakeMed, three days after she was attacked in the home of a friend and suffered a severe head injury. Search warrants released last Friday also state that she was sexually assaulted.

Cartier Drive roadblock DNA eliminates family, friends as suspects

A Greenville resident, Taft had undergone neck surgery in Raleigh on March 5 and was recovering at the home of friend John Geil, at 2710 Cartier Drive. Geil was in Florida at the time.

During a search of Geil's home, police seized bed linens, clothing, dishes, computers and items like golf clubs and shotgun barrels that could have been used in an assault, according to a search warrant. Forensic technicians also obtained fingerprints and DNA evidence from the crime scene.

Residents on Cartier Drive said police collected DNA samples from them about three weeks after the attack, which experts said was a way to rule people out as suspects.

Sources said the DNA eliminated Taft's relatives as suspects, including her sister Dina Arnold Holton, who was staying with her in Geil's house. Investigators are now viewing the attack potentially as a random crime, sources said.

"It's a very clumsy case. It's a very odd victim that he picked there," said Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist who used to work for the Raleigh Police Department and who specializes in working with sex offenders.

"We have lots of rapes, we have lots of murders., but very seldom do we have the rape murder together," Teague said. "I'm not sure he meant to kill her. He may have. I just don't have a real clear idea about that. He definitely became very irrational there at the end."

Holton, of Oriental, called 911 on the morning of March 6 to report that Taft was unresponsive and that she thought it was a complication from her surgery.

She told the dispatcher that she couldn't get Taft out of bed and that there was "blood everywhere."

"I heard footsteps, and I know somebody was in that house," Holton said Tuesday. "I didn't know that house. I'd never stayed in that house before. Then, I found her, and that's when I called 911."

Police were called after Taft had been taken to WakeMed, when her surgeon examined her and realized she had been assaulted. A medical exam at the hospital also turned up evidence of a sexual assault.

Police have said that the attack occurred "some hours before" investigators were called, but the time of the crime hasn't been narrowed down from late March 5 to early March 6.

Neighbors said Tuesday that they have a hard time believing the attack on Taft was random, noting there has never been violent crime in the area before.

Investigators also searched Taft's Lexus and Holton's Dodge Durango for clues. The Durango was parked outside a Harris Teeter about a block away after Holton locked her keys inside, according to a search warrant.

A man who worked in that shopping center told WRAL News that he saw the Durango in the parking lot with the engine running when he arrived for work at 6 a.m. on March 6.

Police took an image off the security video at Harris Teeter that showed a tall man carrying a messenger bag – the man's face couldn't be seen because he wasn't facing the camera – and showed it to store owners in the Glenwood Village Shopping Center as they searched for leads. Several store owners said they didn't recognize the man.

Teague said collecting DNA from people near a crime scene is a common tool for investigators, who believe innocent people are usually willing to cooperate with police.

"They would go to the top of the list (of suspects), I would say, if somebody refused to give a DNA sample," he said.

Taft's family has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information that might help police is asked to call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-HELP.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • corey3rd Apr 13, 2010

    I agree with A_Patriot. Any woman raped and killed in Raleigh needs to be swept under the carpet. She's dead so who cares? Way to make the Tarheels look like they have the greatest fans in the world. Are you rooting for the rapist-murderer to roam the streets freely?

  • Just the facts please Apr 13, 2010

    I'm with you Troubled. There's only supposed to be you and your sister in the house, you hear footsteps ( just before), then you call 911 as a medical emergency, with "blood everywhere"? I don't think so.

    Wait and see. The sister knows a lot more than she's telling and RPD knows it. Random, my foot.

  • seankelly15 Apr 13, 2010

    c2sides - I am most certainly not your love. You are a wag and a stoop gossip. You have been spouting off about the sister and how she probably did it out of envy because Taft was better looking. Then when they police reported that Taft was sexually assaulted, you still maintained that the sister was involved (I guess you think that sister is trans-gendered). Now, we find out that the police think that it was a random event. So, when you were spouting off, the story was coming from your imagination. You trashed the sister based on all of your assumptions... you are most certainly a stoop gossip - you did exactly what stoop gossips do. You would never be my love because I only involve myself with people that a firm grip on reality.

  • Zillardd Apr 13, 2010

    "Teague said collecting DNA from people near a crime scene is a common tool for investigators, who believe innocent people are usually willing to cooperate with police.

    "They would go to the top of the list (of suspects), I would say, if somebody refused to give a DNA sample," he said."

    Sorry, but I come from the book that if the police come to you and want to speak to you or get any kind of sample, they better have a good cause and to say not giving immediately makes one a suspect is a slippery slope for the constitution. You can have it once I have my lawyer there saying yes you can have it. To many situations of police/DAs just trying to close cases. I want my submission handled correctly for sure.

  • troubledraleigh Apr 13, 2010

    Here is what doesn't make any sense at all. The sister said today that she heard footsteps before she checked on her sister. She then goes to her sister's room and finds her nonresponse, foaming at the mouth, blue eyelids and blood everywhere.

    If you heard footsteps in a strange home and then found your sister in bed, nonresponsive with blood everywhere, wouldn't you mention that fact during the 911 call? Wouldn't your first reaction be foul play and not complications from the surgery? Wouldn't you be in a state of panic that the perp was still in the house?

    Also, on the WCTI interview Taft's sister said she heard footsteps and then went to check on Taft. However, Raleigh PD have said that the incident to Taft occurred "some hours" before the 911 call. So, are we to believe the perp raped and killed Taft, and then just hung out and walked around the house for hours. Nothing was stole, so the perp was not stealing things.

    I mean, it just doesn't add up.

  • 07GoldWinger Apr 13, 2010

    It's sad that the RPD does not put this kind of effort into finding the killers of other victims.

  • CrewMax Apr 13, 2010

    "It worked in the Stephanie Bennett case. The person who wouldn't submit DNA was the guilty party. (He was suspected all along but they eliminated many men which allowed them to focus even more on the original suspect.)"

    If that was done, then it was a desperate move. I remember that case and I feel for her family, but to take the approach of trying to smoke criminals out by infringing on the rights of our citizens is not acceptable. Maybe it is to you, but not to me.

  • thepeopleschamp Apr 13, 2010

    "do you have any sources or links to these statistics?" gandalla

    www.fbi.gov Still waiting for you to say what you would do to solve this since you don't think RPD can. You also said that the "local Barney Fife police" would never find the Washington state police shooter, only the FBI. Boy did you miss that by a mile. Lets hear what you would do now just for laughs.

  • gandalla Apr 13, 2010

    Statistics indicate that the RPD has one of the highest clearance rates for violent crimes committed in a city of its size. Therefore the odds are not in favor of the suspect in this case. In time, just as in the case a few years ago where another young woman was killed by a man unknown to her, RPD got their man. Good luck to the detectives working this case. Your citizens have faith in you.

    do you have any sources or links to these statistics?

  • OSX Apr 13, 2010

    It just makes me sad this happened to her. I know there are a lot of GoLo detectives on here but everybody has to admit this case is puzzling. For the families sake, I hope and pray God speed to the good guys to solve this horrible mystery.