SBOE member Kathy Taft dies

March 9, 2010 8:03:25 AM PST
State Board of Education member Kathy Taft died after being taken off of life-support Tuesday.

Police say she was attacked while recovering from surgery at a friend's Raleigh home over the weekend. Police have not said what happened to her - only that she was assaulted and apparently severely beaten.

The 62-year-old board member was found at a home Saturday morning in the 2700 block of Cartier Drive off of Oberlin Road near Cameron Village.

Taft was apparently in Raleigh for a medical procedure on Friday.

She is divorced from former state Senator Tom Taft, but was staying in the home where she was found Saturday, which belongs to her friend Raleigh Attorney John Geil.

Geil was out of state at the time of the crime. Sources say he is not a suspect in the assault.

Neighbors tell ABC11 Eyewitness News they are worried because they are not getting enough information from police about the assault.

"This is a quiet neighborhood," neighbor Ron Harris said. He said the attack is the first time he's heard of anything like that happening in the neighborhood.

Neighbors say investigators have been combing the woods and underbrush around Glenwood Village Shopping Center, which backs up to Cartier Road.

"Whoever fled the scene of this crime, that would be a good place to go because it's out of sight, or much more out of sight than most places in this neighborhood," neighbor Julie Elkins said.

"They just wanted to know if we knew anything or heard anything, if we were around," resident George Ellis said. "They really just asked us where we were, if we saw anybody, anything unusual, walking the streets. So, I mean we don't even know what time it happened."

Police have not said what the motive for the attack was or if it was a random crime. However, Raleigh police stepped up patrols in the area.

"It seems really brutal and it really just hurts me for her and her family," Taft's friend, NC Rep. Marian McLawhorn said. "Whoever is responsible for this horrible tragedy needs to pay, severely for what they did."

Taft, who lives in Greenville, NC, has been a SBOE member since 1995. She ran for state Senate in 2008.

Taft's neighbors in Greenville are wondering what could have happened.

"All the neighborhood is in disbelief, shock," Greenville neighbor Mary McConnell said. "We can't believe something like this would happen to such a wonderful person."

After learning of the attack friends posted messages on Facebook about the attack and some had asked people who know Taft to send prayers for her recovery.

"Our thoughts are with the woman who's been attacked," neighbor Hadley Cairns-Heath said. "Hopefully, they can find who's done this."

After almost three days of blocking Cartier Drive to anyone except residents, police finally reopened it Monday evening.

Sources close the investigation tell ABC11 that police are being extra cautious, trying to make sure they don't leave behind any evidence. If the crime turns out to be a random act, even the smallest piece of evidence may be important.

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