Taft, 62, died Tuesday afternoon, three days after she was attacked in the Raleigh home of a friend and suffered a severe head injury.
Police haven't yet determined if the assault was a random act of violence, Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said. Yellow crime scene tape and Raleigh police cars surrounded the house for a seventh day on Friday.
Ira Hardy was among the more than 400 people who attended a visitation at the Wilkerson Funeral Home in Greenville Friday evening.
“We were just good neighbors,” Hardy said. “She was a wonderful person, very giving.”
A memorial service is planned at 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Greenville.
Several sources have told WRAL News that Taft's sister called 911 this past Saturday morning from the home at 2710 Cartier Drive, indicating that she thought Taft was experiencing complications from a surgery she had undergone the previous day.
Police were called only after Taft had been taken to WakeMed, where her surgeon examined her and realized she had been assaulted, sources said. Surgical bandages on her face likely concealed the wounds, they said.
Taft, who lives in Greenville, had a minor surgical procedure and was staying at the home while she recovered, according to friends.
The homeowner, John Geil, was in Florida when the attack occurred but has since returned. The pair had dated in the past and were still friends, according to relatives.
Taft's sister, who also was staying in the home, went to wake her for breakfast Saturday and called 911 upon finding her unresponsive and her bandages bloodied.
Dolan said the assault occurred "some hours before" investigators were called, but he said the time of the crime hadn't been narrowed down from late Friday to early Saturday.
Taft's family has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Besides serving on the state school board for 15 years – she had the longest tenure of any current member – Taft also ran for state Senate in 2008.
Anyone with information that might help police is asked to call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-HELP.