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State school board remembers Kathy Taft

A single rose surrounded by baby's breath sat in front of Kathy Taft's empty chair at Thursday's state Board of Education meeting.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A single rose surrounded by baby's breath sat in front of Kathy Taft's empty chair at Thursday's state Board of Education meeting.

Fellow board members and family members honored the 62-year-old who died last month after being attacked at a Raleigh home.

She served on the state school board for 15 years – the longest tenure of any current member.

Taft's four children accepted a framed proclamation, their mother's board box containing some of her notes from the last meeting, condolence cards, a rose, a plaque with a glass apple, four pins and coffee mugs.

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison said Taft's "incredible work will not be forgotten," especially her push for the ABC program.

"She helped us build this fine system we have in North Carolina and she wants us to keep it going and we gotta do it in her memory," former Gov. Jim Hunt said. Taft was appointed  to the board by Hunt in 1995.

Taft's 26-year-old son, Thomas, said it was wonderful to see how much his mom was respected.

Taft, who lived in Greenville, was found March 6 inside a home at 2710 Cartier Drive in Raleigh. She was staying at the home while the owner was out of town, according to friends.

John Geil, who is listed as the owner of the house, was in Florida when the attack occurred but has since returned. The pair had dated in the past and were still friends, according to relatives.

Police haven't released many details of their investigation since she died March 9 at WakeMed, three days after being brought to the hospital for severe head trauma.

Several sources told WRAL News that Taft's sister called 911 the morning of March 6, indicating that she thought Taft was experiencing complications from a minor surgical procedure she had a day earlier.

Police were called after a surgeon examined Taft and realized she had been assaulted, sources said. Surgical bandages on her face likely concealed the wounds, the sources said.

Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said the assault 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. Police haven't determined if the assault was a random act of violence.

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.

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Stacy Davis, Reporter
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