Local News

New witness interviews led to Raleigh cold case arrest

Posted October 24, 2013 12:49 p.m. EDT
Updated October 24, 2013 5:31 p.m. EDT

— Recent police interviews with witnesses in a 2001 homicide led Raleigh police to charge a Georgia woman in the case this week, a Wake County prosecutor said Thursday.

Cathy Lynne Lentini, 53, of Cartersville, Ga., was arrested Tuesday and returned to Raleigh Wednesday, where she was booked on a charge of murder in the Oct. 24, 2001, death of Beulah Dickerson.

Dickerson, 91, was found dead in a bedroom of her west Raleigh home. An autopsy determined she died of blunt force trauma.

Lentini, who was denied bond during her first court appearance Thursday afternoon, used to live near Dickerson, police said, but they have not commented on what led them to her after all these years.

Wake County First Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings, however, said Thursday that the decision to charge her involves recent police interviews of witnesses.

"You ask them a question, and all of a sudden, they say something, and you go back and look at what you have and say, 'Oh yeah, there's a piece of physical evidence that this witness has talked about, and it's never been talked about before,'" Cummings said.

He declined to say exactly what that piece of evidence is.

Lentini was originally questioned in the case, but investigators never had enough evidence to charge her, according to Lt. Chris Morgan, a retired Raleigh homicide detective who worked the case.

There were also no signs of forced entry into Dickerson's home, and Morgan said that police thought a tire iron found in some bushes that fit the make and model of a car that Lentini drove was the murder weapon.

Robbery, he said, was the likely motive.

Lentini, who was Cathy Piper at the time, was arrested on unrelated charges and spent about six months in prison before being released in 2002.

In recent years, according to her aunt, she married and moved to Georgia where "supposedly, she had turned her life around and was trying to do better."

Cummings said investigators never stopped working on the case.

"It sort of gives the family some satisfaction to know that the justice system works and that we've been working on it," he said. "We'll see how it goes from here."

Wake County Public Defender Charles Caldwell is representing Lentini, whose next court date is Nov. 14.

"Right now, she's just really very tired," he said after her court appearance Thursday. "She was just recently confronted by the authorities in Georgia and just got up here."

Caldwell did not talk about specifics of the case but said finding witnesses in the 12-year-old case will be a challenge.

"The passage of time makes it that much more difficult to find people," he said.