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Victim's sister: 'I was never treated as a suspect'

Kathy Taft's sister says that she was not treated as a suspect in the March attack that led to the State Board of Education member's death.

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ORIENTAL, N.C. — Kathy Taft's sister says she was not treated as a suspect in the March attack that led to the State Board of Education member's death.

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

"I was never treated as a suspect. Not ever,” Dina Arnold Holton told WCTI-TV.

Holton said she was questioned by police after her sister's attack. The Oriental resident called 911 on the morning of March 6 to report that Taft was unresponsive and that she thought it was a complication from her surgery.

Taft, of Greenville, had undergone neck surgery in Raleigh on March 5 and was recovering at the home of friend John Geil, at 2710 Cartier Drive. Geil was in Florida at the time.

Holton told the dispatcher that she couldn't get her sister out of bed and that there was "blood everywhere."

"I heard footsteps, and I know somebody was in that house," Holton said Monday. "I didn't know that house. I'd never stayed in that house before. Then, I found her, and that's when I called 911."

Police were called after Taft had been taken to WakeMed, when her surgeon examined her and realized she had been assaulted. A medical exam at the hospital also turned up evidence of a sexual assault.

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

Holton said she couldn't have saved her sister.

"It didn't matter if I'd found her at 3:30 in the morning or at the time I found her. It was done. It was done," she said.

Holton said she was interrogated by police, but that she was always treated respectfully. She said she has and will continue to work with investigators in anyway possible to find the person responsible for her sister's death.

"Even the interrogation I've been through. Whatever it could take to find out what happened to my sister," Holton said. "I miss her terribly. She was my soulmate."

During a search of Geil's home, police seized bed linens, clothing, dishes, computers and items like golf clubs and shotgun barrels that could have been used in an assault, according to a search warrant. Forensic technicians also obtained fingerprints and DNA evidence from the crime scene.

Residents on Cartier Drive said police collected DNA samples from them about three weeks after the attack, which experts said was a way to rule people out as suspects.

Sources said Tuesday that the DNA eliminated Taft's relatives as suspects, including Holton. Investigators are now viewing the attack potentially as a random crime, sources said.

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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Adam Owens, Reporter
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