Local News

Raleigh police make arrest in 2001 slaying of 91-year-old woman

Posted October 22, 2013 9:45 p.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2013 6:43 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh police detectives have arrested a Georgia woman in connection with the beating death of a 91-year-old woman 12 years ago this week.

Police spokesman Jim Sughrue said in a news release Tuesday night that Cathy Lynne Lentini, 53, of Cartersville, Ga., was arrested on a murder charge in the death of Beulah Dickerson.

Dickerson was found dead in the bedroom of her west Raleigh home at 160 Pineland Circle on the morning of Oct. 24, 2001. An autopsy found she died of blunt force trauma.

Lentini, formerly known as Cathy Piper, used to live near Dickerson, police said, but later relocated to Cartersville, about 45 miles northwest of Atlanta.

Authorities have not commented on a motive for the crime but said in 2001 that there were no obvious signs of forced entry.

Retired Lt. Chris Morgan, who was a lead detective on the case, said in a 2006 interview with Amanda Lamb for a book about an unrelated Raleigh murder that investigators thought Dickerson was beaten with a tire iron that fit the make and model of a car driven by Lentini and that robbery was a motive.

Morgan also said that, shortly after the crime, investigators questioned Piper about the killing and arrested her on other unrelated charges but never had enough evidence to charge her with murder.

She was convicted of embezzlement and spent several months in prison until being released in June 2002.

Dickerson had lived in the house, which has since been demolished and replaced, for more than 40 years and had been living alone at the time of her death.

Police would not say what evidence led them to Lentini after all these years, only that homicide detectives "recently were able to develop probable cause sufficient to obtain an arrest warrant."

Raleigh police traveled to Georgia this week, and with assistance from authorities there, arrested Lentini.

Lentini was in the Bartow County jail in Cartersville Tuesday awaiting extradition back to North Carolina.

Ann Poole, Lentini's aunt, said Wednesday that her niece moved to Georgia a couple of years ago with her new husband and called "from time to time." Poole said Lentini was estranged from family members in the Raleigh area.

"She burned too many bridges," Poole said. "Supposedly, she had turned her life around and was trying to do better."

Capt. Norman Grodi, who heads the Raleigh Police Department's Homicide Unit, said Dickerson's death was among 19 open homicide cases – 12 of which are cold cases – over the past 20 years.

The oldest case is the stabbing death of 17-year-old Beth-Ellen Vinson, whose body was found Aug. 23, 1994, near Atlantic Avenue, several weeks after she moved to the area from Goldsboro.