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Autopsy: Planten Had Early Signs Of Cancer At Time Of Suicide

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A recently released autopsy report reveals that a suspect in the 2002 homicide of a Raleigh woman was showing early signs of kidney cancer at the time of his suicide earlier this year.

The autopsy also confirmed that Drew Planten, 35, died after hanging himself in his prison cell on Jan. 2. He had suffocated himself by placing a plastic bag over his head.

Planten was arrested last Oct. 19 for the 2002 rape and slaying of 23-year-old Stephanie Bennett, who was found dead in her North Raleigh apartment.

For more than three years, investigators interviewed thousands of witnesses and followed up on hundreds of leads. They arrested Planten outside a fertilizer laboratory for the N.C. Department of Agriculture, where he worked as a chemistry technician.

Raleigh investigators later contacted Lansing, Mich., police after finding evidence in Planten's apartment that possibly linked him to the October 1999 shooting death of a young woman, Rebecca Huismann, there.

Then, on Jan. 2, while conducting routine checks at Raleigh's Central Prison, a prison guard found Planten unresponsive in his cell. Planten's lawyer, Kirk Osborn, said his client had hung himself.

Had he lived, Lansing prosecutors said Planten would have been charged in connection with Huismann's death.

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