New details in Taft murder emerge

Kathy Taft
April 8, 2010 7:22:21 PM PDT
A source told ABC11 Thursday that police have evidence that North Carolina Board of Education member Kathy Taft was sexually assaulted before her death, and they have DNA evidence.

The sources - who are close to the investigation - asked not to be identified.

Taft, 62, was found by her sister at the home of a friend at 2710 Cartier Drive Saturday, March 6. A person with knowledge of the case told ABC11 the sister thought Taft was suffering complication from a plastic surgery procedure the day before. But when she was taken to the hospital, the surgeon who performed the surgery realized she'd been assaulted. Taft died from her injuries three days later.

Raleigh police have been unusually quiet about the murder investigation - refusing to publically release details about how Taft died or if they have any suspects. Detectives got a judge to seal search warrants and 911 recordings related to the case. However on Friday, authorities are expected to unseal the documents.

The attack happened at the home of Raleigh Attorney John Geil. Geil was out of state at the time of the crime, and sources say he is not a suspect in the assault.

Men who live near the crime scene told reporters they were asked to give DNA samples to rule them out as potential suspects.

Former prosecutor and longtime Raleigh defense attorney Karl Knudsen was not surprised to hear that investigators have DNA evidence they believe belongs to the killer. He said he figured that when he heard about neighbors being asked to give DNA samples.

"They wouldn't have done that if they did not have something they wanted to compare it against," he said.

Knudsen said it's likely investigators have compared the killer's DNA to state, national, and possibly even international data bases of DNA from known criminals. He also figures they've also tested all the men in Taft's personal life - and apparently none of those comparisons have yielded a match.

Police may now be looking for someone who refuses to give a DNA sample.

"That might tend to concentrate some interest on a particular person," said Knudsen.

Each day the case remains unsolved, the more likely it becomes that it may have been a random crime - a scary thought according to Knudsen.

"An act of extreme violence like this is unlikely to be an isolated event for the perpetrator. It may not be the first one. And it may not be the last one," he offered.

Taft, who lived in Greenville, served on the State School Board for 15 years - the longest tenure of any current member. She also ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in 2008. Prior to that, she served on the the Pitt County Board of Education. She was divorced from former state Senator Tom Taft, and had four children.

Reward offered

The Taft family is offering a $25,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator of the crime. Anyone with information that might help police detectives is asked to call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-HELP.

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