Kathy Taft

Wife of accused killer in school board slaying files for divorce

Posted May 18, 2012 3:39 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2012 6:55 p.m. EDT

— The wife of the man on trial for raping and fatally beating a longtime member of the North Carolina State Board of Education two years ago has filed for divorce.

Jessica Foote, of Raleigh, filed a complaint May 10 asking for an absolute divorce from Jason Williford, who is on trial for first-degree murder in the March 9, 2010, death of Kathy Taft.

The civil action does not list a reason for the divorce and states only that the two had no children, were married Nov. 2, 2009, and separated in July 2010, three months after he was arrested on first-degree rape, burglary and murder charges.

Foote's name appears on a potential witness list for Williford's trial, but it's unclear whether she will testify. She has not been in court this week.

Defense attorneys admit that Williford attacked Taft but say the crime isn't first-degree murder, because he suffered from numerous mental disorders and illnesses that kept him from being able to form specific intent to kill, which is required for a first-degree murder conviction.

In opening statements, attorney Ernest Conner Jr. said Foote and Williford married in a secret wedding and that she "sees the sweet side of Jason, and she also sees signs that he has a secret life."

But no one, knew of Williford's "sexually deviant" ways and that his life had become centered on getting drugs, getting high and going onto Craigslist to find men with whom had unprotected sex.

Prosecutors, however, say Williford is guilty of first-degree murder and knew what he was doing when he beat and raped Taft and left her to die.

"He went home two blocks away, took off his clothes, crawled into bed next to his wife and fell fast asleep. While he slept, she was bleeding. While he slept, her brain and body were swelling," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Trish Jacobs said.