Local News

DNA, 'Old-Fashioned Police Work' Help Crack Stephanie Bennett Case

Posted October 20, 2005 5:26 a.m. EDT
Updated December 10, 2006 8:08 a.m. EST

— Local and state authorities said Thursday the combination of "old-fashioned police work" and new technology led to an arrest in the 3-year-old murder investigation of Stephanie Bennett.

Raleigh police officers Wednesday afternoon arrested Drew Edward Planten, 35, of Raleigh, outside a laboratory for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and charged him with Bennett's death.

Bennett was found raped and strangled to death in her apartment on Lake Lynn Drive on May 21, 2002. Since that time, investigators followed up on hundreds of calls and leads, and interviewed and re-interviewed dozens of witnesses.

Raleigh Police Chief Jane Perlov said authorities had narrowed the focus of their investigation to Planten a few months ago, and that DNA evidence linked Planten to the crime.

Maj. Dennis Lane, of the Raleigh Police Department, said Planten had moved to the area in 1998 when he took a job with the state Agriculture Department. He said there is no indication at this time that Planten knew Bennett.

"This is where old-fashioned police work meets new police work. This is where the shoe leather pays off and the DNA pays off. It's the meeting of both worlds," Lane said.

Perlov credited the hard work of detectives, along with the staff and technology at the State Bureau of Investigation's Crime Lab, for solving the case.

"It is the best way in the world to do police work. There's a lot of paperwork, but if you don't knock on people's doors and talk to people, you'll never get what you need," said lead investigator Ken Copeland.

Retired investigator Chris Morgan said Wednesday night that he had his first good night's sleep in three years.

"I felt like over the years I got to, in a sense, know her. She made an impression on me I'll never forget," he said.

Police say Planten is the same man that was described as a dog walker in Bennett's neighborhood. He is also a suspect in connection with a peeping incident at the apartment complex prior to the murder. At the time of her death, investigators said Planten lived within a mile of Bennett's home.

A representative with the state Agriculture Department said the agency has cooperated fully with the investigation.

Planten is being held without bond in the Wake County Jail. He will have his first court appearance later on Thursday.

Authorities also plan to search Planten's residence for more evidence.

Anyone with any information about Planten that they believe may be beneficial in regards to the investigation is asked to contact the Raleigh Police Department at (919) 890-3555.