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Sister reported 'blood everywhere' after attack on schools official

Search warrants released Friday state that State Board of Education member Kathy Taft was sexually assaulted in addition to being beaten to death.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The sister of State Board of Education member Kathy Taft said there was "blood everywhere" around Taft following an attack last month in a Raleigh home that led to Taft's death, according to a 911 call released Friday.

Taft, 62, died March 9 at WakeMed, three days after she was attacked in the home of a friend and suffered a severe head injury. Search warrants released Friday also state that she had been sexually assaulted.

Shortly after Taft's death, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby asked for all records in the case to be sealed, saying that the premature release of information in the case could hinder the police investigation.

The seal on those search warrants, police reports on the case and two 911 calls expired Friday morning.

Taft, who lived in Greenville, had undergone neck surgery in Raleigh on March 5 and was recovering at the home of John Geil, at 2710 Cartier Drive. The pair had dated in the past and were still friends, according to relatives. Geil was in Florida at the time.

Taft's sister, Dina Arnold Holton, of Oriental, was staying with her while she recuperated.

Holton called 911 at 9:31 a.m. on March 6 to report that her sister was unresponsive and that she thought it was a complication from her surgery.

"She's in the bed. I can't get her up," Holton told the dispatcher. "There is blood everywhere – everywhere."

Holton said her sister seemed fine when she checked on her at 3 a.m., but now her eyelids were blue, she was "foaming at the mouth" and felt clammy.

Police were called after Taft had been taken to WakeMed, when her surgeon examined her and realized she had been assaulted, sources said.

During a second 911 call from WakeMed at 11:48 a.m., a hospital worker requested police for "a possible rape investigation."

Family members told WakeMed emergency room staff that they suspected Taft had been raped, and a medical exam found evidence of a sexual assault.

"The family thinks they might have seen somebody, but they really don't know," the hospital worker told the 911 dispatcher. "We can't ask the patient anything."

The 911 calls were played to Taft's family before being released to the public. Kathy Taft's daughter, Paige Fuqua, said that her aunt's words as she discovered her mother brought her to tears.

"I head some things I didn't really want to hear, some details. It was just sad," Fuqua said. "I hate to think of my mom suffering like she did."

Police have said that the attack occurred "some hours before" investigators were called, but the time of the crime hadn't been narrowed down from late March 5 to early March 6.

As part of their investigation, police searched Holton's 2002 Dodge Durango and recovered a handwritten note, some fingerprints and swabs of DNA, according to a search warrant released Friday.

Holton, who was present at the time of the search, told police she locked her keys in the SUV and left her car at a Harris Teeter a block from Cartier Drive.

A person who works in the shopping center told WRAL News that he saw the Durango was unoccupied with the engine running in the parking lot when he arrived for work at 6 a.m. on March 6.

Raleigh defense attorney Dan Boyce, who isn't connected to the case, said people shouldn't infer anything because Horton's vehicle was searched.

"That doesn't mean she is a prime suspect in any way, but you have to go through that process of elimination and say who it might be and who it probably isn't," Boyce said. "There's no indication in (the search warrants) that they've zeroed in on a single individual."

Police took an image off the security video at Harris Teeter that showed a tall man carrying a messenger bag – the man's face couldn't be seen because he wasn't facing the camera – and showed it to store owners in the Glenwood Village Shopping Center as they searched for leads. Several store owners said they didn't recognize the man.

Police also seized Taft's 2005 Lexus for examination. From it, they recovered a checkbook and a hotel receipt.

In a search of Geil's home, police seized sheets and pillows, clothing, golf clubs, shotgun barrels, desktop and laptop computers, beer bottles, dishes, two receipts from Harris Teeter and other items.

Boyce said the variety of items seized in the case show investigators are trying to turn over every leaf to uncover evidence.

"If they find a fingerprint or find DNA evidence of an individual that had no reason to be in that house, that is evidence of guilt," he said.

Geil's home remained sealed off with yellow crime scene tape for almost three weeks after Taft was attacked.

In late March, officers handed out 1,000 fliers at a neighborhood checkpoint, and neighbors said that officers collected DNA samples from them in an attempt to rule out suspects.

Taft's family has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information that might help police is asked to call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-HELP.

Retired Raleigh police homicide detective Chris Morgan, who is not connected to this case, believes officers, some of whom he has worked with, are considering every possible lead.

“You have got a group of very good detectives,” Morgan said.

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