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Warrants Reveal How Authorities Obtained Planten's DNA Sample

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Detectives investigating the death of 23-year-old Stephanie Bennett collected a DNA sample from their main suspect in the case by swabbing the space where he worked at a North Carolina Department of Agriculture laboratory, according to search warrants released Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens agreed to unseal five of the warrants related to the investigation of 35-year-old Drew Planten. Authorities arrested him Oct. 19 outside the laboratory where he worked as a chemistry technician, and charged him with first-degree murder in Bennett's death.

The warrants provide a timeline of events leading up to Planten's arrest, and detail what police were looking for when they seized evidence from Planten's apartment, workplace and car.

After interviewing witnesses again in February 2005, warrants state that investigators were able to get a better description of the suspect wanted in connection with Bennett's death.

In May, police went to Planten's apartment home on Buck Jones Road, where the suspect spoke with investigators briefly, but refused to give a DNA sample.

The lead prosecutor in the case against Planten, Susan Spurlin, said Planten's refusal to give a DNA sample fueled the investigation.

On Oct. 17, with permission from the state Department of Agriculture, investigators took DNA from Planten's workplace by swabbing surfaces in the lab and took gloves he wore.

On Oct. 19, the State Bureau of Investigation confirmed Planten's DNA matched the DNA taken from the crime scene at Bridgeport Apartments on Lake Lynn Drive.

One warrant also revealed that investigators seized computers from Planten's job site and home to see if he had visited a memorial Web site set up in Bennett's honor.

"You can learn a lot about a person by looking at their computer," Spurlin said.

Investigators also wanted to see if Planten may have visited any Web sites depicting bondage or sexual assault, as well as any other evidence that may have referred to any plans or motivation into Bennett's death or any other future crimes similar in nature.

Another thing investigators mention over and over again in the search warrants are "trophies" -- personal belongings taken from victims to serve as souvenirs. Early on in the investigation, police released a picture of a stereo that was apparently taken from Bennett's apartment after her death.

Police, however, will not yet say exactly what, if anything, they may have found.

Stephens has given investigators one week to tie up loose ends before the list of what they found becomes public. Spurlin said releasing the list at this point could compromise the investigation.


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