Local News

Autopsy: Schools official had fractured skull, brain damage

Posted April 29, 2010 1:15 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2010 2:13 p.m. EDT

— State Board of Education member Kathy Taft suffered a fractured skull and extensive brain damage in a March beating that led to her death, according to an autopsy report released Thursday.

Taft, 62, of Greenville, was recovering from plastic surgery at a friend's home on Cartier Drive in Raleigh when she was attacked. Her sister found her bloodied and unresponsive on the morning of March 6, and she died three days later from severe head injuries.

Taft's head injuries indicate that she was struck multiple times with a blunt object, according to the autopsy report. She also had been sexually assaulted, the report said.

Jason Keith Williford, 30, of 2812-D Wayland Drive, was arrested two weeks ago and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree forcible rape in her death.

Sources told WRAL News that investigators became suspicious after Williford, who lives less than a quarter-mile from the home where Taft was staying, refused to provide DNA to police. Investigators were collecting DNA samples from people near the crime scene to eliminate them as possible suspects.

Officers later obtained a sample of Williford’s DNA from a discarded cigarette butt, sources said, and it matched evidence found at the scene of Taft's attack.

Court records show that Williford was convicted of breaking and entering in 1998 and 2001.

In 2003, police charged him with communicating threats and making harassing phone calls, but the charges were voluntarily dismissed. Two years later, his girlfriend at the time filed a protective order against him, alleging that he abused alcohol, was "emotionally unstable" and made harassing phone calls.