Local News

Trial date set for March in state school official's slaying

Posted July 20, 2011 11:50 a.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2011 1:20 p.m. EDT

— A Raleigh man accused of killing State Board of Education member Kathy Taft last year will tentatively go on trial March 5 – almost two years to the day of her death – a judge ruled Wednesday.

Taft, 62, of Greenville, was recovering from surgery at a friend's home on Cartier Drive in Raleigh on March 6, 2010, when she was raped and beaten repeatedly on the head with a blunt object, according to an autopsy report. Her sister found her bloodied and unresponsive, and she died three days later, police have said.

Her skull had been fractured, and she suffered from extensive brain damage as a result of the attack, the autopsy found.

Jason Keith Williford, who lived less than a mile from where Taft was staying, was arrested April 16, 2010, and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree forcible rape in the case.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens also appointed a third defense attorney to the case because of possible scheduling conflicts with lead counsel Ernest Conner. He is scheduled to try another capital murder case in the spring and might need to be removed from the case.

The trial could last anywhere from four to 12 weeks, attorneys discussed.

Investigators haven't offered a motive for Taft's slaying but have said they do not believe she knew Williford.