Probe points to Mich. case

Lansing police look at suspect in Stephanie Bennett murder for '99 killing

Staff WritersNovember 9, 2005 

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CORRECTION

Front-page stories Oct. 21 and Nov. 9 misstated how long Drew Planten lived in Michigan. Planten, a suspect in the slaying of Stephanie Bennett of Raleigh in 2002, moved there with his family in 1987 before the start of his senior year in high school.

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Michigan police are re-examining the unsolved murder of a 22-year-old woman after Raleigh detectives found documents in Drew Planten's apartment containing the dead woman's name.

Planten, 35, was arrested Oct. 19 and charged with murdering Stephanie Bennett, 23, on May 21, 2002. Bennett was bound, raped and strangled in her North Raleigh apartment near Lake Lynn.

Planten's DNA, a sample of which was taken from gloves he used as a chemistry technician at the N.C. Department of Agriculture, led police to charge him with killing Bennett.

While searching Planten's apartment at 418 Buck Jones Road in West Raleigh in the days after his arrest, Raleigh detectives found documents that referred to Rebecca Huismann, who was shot and killed in the driveway of her Lansing, Mich., home early Oct. 19, 1999, after she left her job as a dancer at a topless dance club.

Planten grew up in the Lansing area.

The eight-page inventory of what police confiscated from Planten's Raleigh home was temporarily sealed but was made public Tuesday. Among the items were an extensive pornography collection, at least 12 firearms, handcuffs, dozens of knives and 97 pairs of shoes.

After finding the items containing Huismann's name, Raleigh detectives called their counterparts in Lansing and learned that Huismann was shot in the face with a .45-caliber weapon.

Two guns of that caliber were found in Planten's apartment, one of which Lansing police took when they came to Raleigh last week, according to the search warrant and a news release from the Raleigh Police Department.

Planten has not been charged with any crimes in Michigan. But prosecutors there indicated the evidence found in Raleigh changed the inquiry into Huismann's death into an active investigation.

"On October 22, 2005, the Lansing Police Department received important new information from the Raleigh, North Carolina Police Department possibly relating to the murder of Rebecca Huismann," Stuart J. Dunnings III, prosecuting attorney for Ingham County, Mich., wrote in a news release.

Planten commuted to Michigan State University in East Lansing from his mother's nearby home until he graduated in 1995. He had trouble finding a job after graduation, his mother has said.

From April to June 2000, Planten worked outside of Portland, Ore., as a biological science technician for the Pacific Northwest Research Station, a lab run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, said Sherri Richardson, a spokeswoman for the research station.

In July 2000, Planten got a job with the N.C. Department of Agriculture analyzing fertilizer, and he worked there until his arrest.

At the time of Bennett's death, Planten lived a few hundred yards from her in an adjacent apartment complex.

Among the items seized by police from his current apartment on Buck Jones Road were boxes of ammunition, bows and arrows, bolt cutters, lock picking guides, sex toys, newspaper articles and a book titled "How to Clean Anything." Boxes of pornography included videocassettes, photographs, DVDs and microfiche.

Also found were several documents with other people's names and computer printouts of directions to two Raleigh addresses. Raleigh police would not say who lived at those addresses, or whether they were women or men. Police also declined to say whether the 97 pairs of shoes were men's or women's shoes.

(News researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Sarah Ovaska can be reached at 829-4622 or sovaska@newsobserver.com.

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