Police say Taft slaying was random act

Staff writerApril 17, 2010 

Raleigh police think the slaying of State Board of Education member Kathy Taft was "a random act of violence," Police Chief Harry Dolan said this afternoon.

Jason Keith Williford, 30, of 2812 Wayland Drive, Apt. D, was charged Friday with rape and murder in connection with Taft's death.

In a news conference today, Dolan said police think Williford acted alone. He also said detectives can find no link between Williford and Taft.

Williford lived just a few blocks away from where Taft was found blooded and beaten in the home of a friend at 2710 Cartier Drive.

Many men in the neighborhood had given DNA samples to Raleigh police in the weeks since Taft's death on March 9. Williford, though, did not.

"We have not received any cooperation from Williford in this case," Dolan said.

The chief noted that officers didn't have a lot to go on at the start of investigation. They interviewed Williford for the first time in recent days.

"He is the first and only suspect," Dolan said.

Dolan said the City-County Bureau of Identification and the State Bureau of Investigation worked closely with Raleigh police on the case. He also praised the work of lab technicians.

Williford apparently lives with others in the Wayland residence, but Dolan couldn't say how many. He also declined to discuss any murder weapon or anything else at the crime scene.

Taft, 62, of Greenville, is survived by four adult children.

Her sister, Dina Arnold Holton, called emergency dispatchers to the Cartier Drive residence at 9:31 a.m. March 6 to report that Taft was in bed, unresponsive and bleeding.

The day before, Taft had seen a plastic surgeon and had minor surgery on her neck, Holton told the 911 dispatcher. The two women had been staying at the Cartier Drive home of Raleigh lawyer John Geil, who had dated Taft, while he was in Florida.

Williford has been in trouble with the law before, amassing an arrest record that includes several burglary and drug-related charges.

According to court records, he was convicted in 2001 of breaking and entering, a misdemeanor charge that brought him a suspended sentence and three years of probation.

He is a bassist and vocalist in the Raleigh band The Authority. According to the band's Web site, Williford also has played in the bands Mourning Wood and Traces of Morrow.

"They [The Authority] were a jam band, played the Berkeley a lot with another band called Mackey. But it's been a while, maybe three years," said Jim Shires, who books bands for the Berkeley Café in downtown Raleigh.

"I never liked [Williford]. He was a Berkeley Wednesday night regular who'd come in on jam nights, always be telling me how I needed to run the place, bringing in his own beer," Shires said Friday night. "He dated a girl who worked there for a while. I didn't care for him, but I never would've guessed he was capable of that. I never saw him be mean or violent."

On the arrest warrant, Williford is listed as unemployed.

He is being held without bail in the Wake County jail.

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