911 calls released in Taft murder

Kathy Taft

April 9, 2010 3:29:54 PM PDT
Search warrants released Friday confirmed an exclusive ABC11 report that police have evidence that North Carolina Board of Education member Kathy Taft was sexually assaulted before her death, and they have DNA evidence.

Taft, 62, was found by her sister Diana Arnold Holton at the home of a friend at 2710 Cartier Drive Saturday, March 6.

Click here to listen to Holton's 911 call

"She is in the bed. I cannot get her up," Holton tells the 911 operator. "There's blood everywhere, everywhere."

According to search warrants, Holton thought Taft was suffering complications from a plastic surgery procedure the day before. But when she was taken to the hospital, medical staff realized she'd been assaulted and called 911. Taft died from her injuries three days later.

Click here to listen to the 911 call from WakeMed

"I'm calling in relation to a patient that we just got about an hour and a half ago, and now it's turned into an investigation of a rape," said the unidentified WakeMed staff member who made the 911 call.

The search warrants say Taft had a laceration to the back of the head when she arrived at the hospital that was not related to the plastic surgery. Holton said in her 911 call that Taft's head was wrapped in gauze, so it's possible she didn't see the injury.

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.

Those records were unsealed Friday.

Click here to read the warrants (.pdf)

One search warrant shows detectives searched Holton's 2002 Dodge Durango that was parked about a block away from the Cartier Drive home in the parking lot of a Harris Teeter grocery store. Holton told detectives it was there because she had locked her keys inside. A note, fingerprints, and DNA swabs were taken from the vehicle.

A second warrant inventories all the items that were taken from the Cartier Drive crime scene. They include hair, fingerprints and DNA swabs. Golf clubs, two shotgun barrels and a hand written note were collected along with "plastic bag corners." Crime experts tell ABC11 that drugs are sometimes packaged in the corners of plastic baggies that are then cut out and sealed with heat.

More

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.

Speaking Thursday, former prosecutor and longtime Raleigh defense attorney Karl Knudsen said he 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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