Taft's sister says she is not a suspect

RALEIGH Authorities say someone sexually assaulted and beat 62-year-old Taft to death inside a home on Cartier Lane in the late night hours of March 5 or the early morning hours of March 6.

The only person in the house other than Taft, according to court records, was her sister Dina Holton.

Holton discovered Taft unresponsive the morning of March 6 and called 911. During the call, she had a conversation with the dispatcher that has raised some questions.

    911 Dispatcher: "Is that a house or an apartment?"
    Holton: "It's a house. My black Durango is in front of it."
However, in a search warrant of Holton's car police wrote, "… it was learned that her (Holton) personal vehicle was parked approximately one block away at the Harris Teeter. Ms. Holton advised that she had locked her keys in this vehicle earlier and had left it at this location."

Holton says she forgot her car was still at the Harris Teeter in the panic over her sister.

She tells ABC11 Eyewitness News that police interviewed her at length and have informed her she is no longer a suspect.

Sources close to the case say Holton is essentially right, although no one can be completely eliminated as a suspect at this point in the investigation. They say that is also the case with John Geil, the man who owns the house on Cartier Drive were the incident took place, and was once Taft's boyfriend.

"It seemed like she was the only good suspect," neighbor Gillian Bowling said. "So now, I just hope they have some news as to some progress that they've made."

Bowling has been helping organize a neighborhood watch in the area around the murder scene.

She and others in the neighborhood say they are starting to think as each day passes without an arrest that the killer might have picked Taft out of the blue.

"If it's just someone random that not only sexually assaulted her but then beat her, I mean, that person definitely needs to be caught," Bowling said.

Holton and another one of Taft's family members also tell ABC11 that Raleigh police have retrieved DNA samples from all the men in Taft's family, as well as her male acquaintances.

ABC11 reported last week that according to sources, police have DNA that they think may belong to the killer and it appears they do not have any positive matches from the family, friends, neighbors, nor the national criminal data bases.

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.

Taft's 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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