Williford sentenced to life in prison without parole

Jason Williford
June 8, 2012 7:42:08 AM PDT
Jason Williford was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday for the murder of N.C. State Board of Education member Kathy Taft. Last week, jurors found Williford guilty of first-degree murder and rape.

They believed Williford attacked Taft inside a home on Raleigh's Cartier Lane sometime between the late night hours of March 5 or the early morning hours of March 6, 2010. She died at WakeMed a few days later.

On the night Taft was attacked, she and her sister were house-sitting while Taft recovered from plastic surgery. According to testimony from a medical examiner, Taft had been sexually assaulted.

Throughout the sentencing phase of the trial, prosecutors continued to try and convince jurors that Williford should receive the death penalty.

On Thursday, Williford broke down in tears as Taft's four children talked about the loss of their mother, and spoke directly to him at points.

"If you knew her, you would never have hurt her," Taft's daughter Paige Fuqua said.

"Jason, I don't know why you can't look up here," Taft's other daughter Jessica Gorall said. "When you murdered and raped her you killed something within me. And I will never be the same."

After each of Taft's children took the stand and addressed the court, the judge asked them to remain in the court.

"For the last nine weeks I have watched the four of you conduct yourself with poise, grace and dignity. I know where that came from," Judge Paul Gessner said.

Gessner went on to recite a Dr. Seuss quote he had recently heard on the radio, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Gov. Bev Perdue, a friend of Kathy Taft, also weighed in on the Williford case Thursday evening.

"To think that this animal did this to her is unconscionable to me," said Perdue. "And I'm glad that I'll never have to see him or that another woman in America will never have to see him."

Taft served on the State School Board for 15 years. She also ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in 2008. Prior to that, she served on the Pitt County Board of Education.

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