Kathy Taft murder suspect in court

Jason Williford

February 19, 2012 9:00:00 PM PST
The Raleigh man charged with raping and killing a member of the State Board of Education appeared in court Monday morning for a pre-trial hearing.

Jason Williford is charged with first-degree murder in the March 2010 beating death of Kathy Taft.

On Monday, lawyers for the 32-year-old accused killer pleaded with a judge to delay the trial. His trial is currently scheduled for March 5 - two years to the day of Taft's attack.

They told the judge they'd argue a mental health defense and claimed that prosecutors hadn't turned over enough evidence including Williford's computer, which the state said contained child porn images.

Williford's legal team also wanted the judge to toss out DNA evidence that investigators suggested tied Williford to the crime scene - including DNA from Williford's cigarette butt that investigators found on the street.

Williford's attorney said that violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

Police have said Williford attacked 62-year-old Taft inside a home on Cartier Lane in the late night hours of March 5 or the early morning hours of March 6. She died at WakeMed a few days later.

Taft and her sister were housesitting at the Raleigh home while Taft recovered from a surgery.

Her sister found her bloodied body and lab results revealed the state school board member had been sexually assaulted and had a deep cut on the back of her head.

Police said Williford, a Raleigh musician, lived in an apartment around the corner from the home where Taft was staying when she was attacked.

Taft 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.

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