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Detectives Brief Lead Prosecutor In Bennett Murder Investigation

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Investigators Monday released new information about the arrest of a suspect in the 3-year-old murder investigation of a Virginia woman found dead in her North Raleigh apartment. Meanwhile, police briefed a prominent Wake County prosecutor on the case.

Authorities said that Drew Planten, 35, was carrying a concealed handgun when they arrested him last Wednesday at the state government laboratory where he worked. Investigators believe that in 2002, Planten sought out, raped and strangled 23-year-old Stephanie Bennett.

Detectives in the case targeted Planten months ago but said a DNA sample collected and analyzed last week finally confirmed investigators' beliefs that he was linked to the crime.

Prosecutor Susan Spurlin, who was assigned to the case on Friday, also met Monday with investigators to be briefed on the investigation.

"I've met with the officers who are involved in the case," Spurlin said. "They've taken me to different places around the city of Raleigh that are important -- the crime scene, the defendant's apartment, the defendant's workplace."

A 20-year veteran of the Wake County District Attorney's Office, Spurlin has worked on many high-profile cases, including last year's double-murder investigation at a North Carolina State University tailgate party.

Spurlin said the amount of time that has passed since Bennett's death will not hurt what she believes to be a very strong case.

"There's a lot of information that's been accumulated over the three-and-a-half-year period," Spurlin said. "Raleigh police have done a fabulous job in putting this case together. We have a lot more work, but we'll be ready when it's time to go to trial."

Bennett's rape and suspected murder by an apparent stranger at Bridgeport Apartments in May 2002 sparked public interest and Spurlin said she expects that interest to remain.

"There's a real sense from people I talked to that it could have been anybody," Spurlin said.

Planten's case will most likely go before a grand jury next Monday. If he is indicted, prosecutors said they will decide within the next 30 days whether they will seek the death penalty against Planten.

Planten's attorney, Kirk Osborn, of Chapel Hill, did not return WRAL's calls Monday requesting an interview.

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