RALEIGH — Hours after Kathy Tafts slaying, her accused rapist and killer drove past the crime scene, looked up news about it on the Internet and warned that a lady had been attacked in our neighborhood, and I should lock the doors when he wasnt home, his wife testified Tuesday.
Jason Willifords capital murder trial took a dramatic spin on its fourth day when Jessica Foote, the spouse who has since filed for divorce, also said he tried to rape her in their Raleigh apartment only five days before his arrest in Tafts slaying.
Foote, her dreadlocked hair tied back in a multi-colored bandana and with multiple piercings in her face, stood in stark contrast to the uniformed officers and suit-clad investigators who have already taken the stand. Now working as a fire-eating performer in Wilmington, Foote told jurors she loved Williford when they married in 2009 and that she initially considered him innocent of Tafts murder framed by police who couldnt put the case together.
By April 2010, weeks after Tafts death, the neighborhood where Williford and Foote lived off Oberlin Road had been covered by police seeking DNA samples, which Williford had refused to supply.
Foote said she didnt report being attacked by her husband until many months later. In the back of my mind, I didnt think it would look too good with what was going on in the neighborhood, she testified.
Williford, 32, kept his eyes lowered throughout the testimony his demeanor throughout the trial. He stands accused of entering the nearby house where Taft was staying and sexually assaulting and bludgeoning her in bed as she recovered from cosmetic surgery. Taft, a 62-year-old Greenville resident, was a long-serving member of the State Board of Education.
Foote described her husband as pretty drunk on the night of Tafts murder. But she said the drunkest she had ever seen him was a few weeks later, when he held her down on a bed and put his knee between her legs.
I kept screaming, Jason get the (expletive) off me! Foote testified. She said her husband responded repeatedly, Or else what?
Foote said Williford left before completing a sexual assault, and that she had attempted to reach a large, military-issue Ka-bar knife she kept between the mattress and box springs.
I probably would have really hurt Jason, if not killed him, she said.
Drunk and loud
On the night Taft was killed, Williford came home at midnight with a friend named Dan, both of them visibly intoxicated, Foote testified. They were noisy, playing guitar and air drums, stomping on the floor. Foote said she was furious because she had to go work at her veterinary technicians job in Durham early the next day.
At the time, she said, the couple had three dogs and seven ferrets in their home.
Williford wasnt working and had often been unemployed, she said. She had thought him to be sober earlier in their relationship, though she knew of his trouble with drinking and had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with him.
When Williford took his friend home, Foote said she warned, Be sure to be home before 3 a.m., because nothing good ever happens after 3 a.m.
He returned home around 2:45 a.m., but left their apartment after she confronted him about blatant disrespect. She thought he was only smoking a cigarette, she said, but Williford was gone for a long time.
When he came home later, He was in his boxer shorts. That was it.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Driver asked Foote if she remembered describing her husband as a gentle soul.
My mom described him as a gentle soul to my family members who didnt know him very well, she said. She did not know him well. ... I dont think I ever used those words.
Driver also had Foote read jurors a letter she wrote to Williford shortly after his arrest, which referred to when the truth reveals what a wonderful man you are and promised we will see each other soon because you are innocent.
Foote described some of her statements to investigators as a defense mechanism made when she didnt know what was happening. Williford never suggested problems other than alcoholism, she said, adding that she didnt know he had been hiring prostitutes and arranging sex with men on Craigslist.
Jason had a secret sexual life that you just didnt know about? Driver asked.
I did not, Foote replied.