RALEIGH — A Wake County District Court judge told a Georgia woman on Thursday that she could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if she is convicted of the 2001 beating death of an elderly neighbor in Raleigh.
Cathy Lynne Lentini 53, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Buelah Dickerson, a 91-year-old, slightly built woman who used an aluminum walker to get around. Lentini appeared in court Thursday, one day after she after she arrived at the Wake County jail from Cartersville, Ga., where she has lived in recent years.
Neighbors said Dickerson was a retired shop owner and vacuum cleaner mechanic who occasionally drove herself to a nearby Kmart and made sure her neighbors younger children got on the school bus in the morning.
Dickerson was last seen alive on Oct. 22, 2001, when she went out to check on the mail, neighbors told police. On Oct. 24, Dickersons daughter and son in-law found two days worth of mail in her mailbox and then discovered her bludgeoned body in the bedroom of her small, ranch-style home off Western Boulevard.
Investigators considered Lentini a suspect from the outset but did not have enough probable cause for her arrest until the Wake County District Attorneys Office reviewed the case and new interviews with several witness produced additional information.
Sheriffs deputies in Bartow County, Ga., on the northwest edge of metropolitan Atlanta, took Lentini into custody at her home at 80 Pine Needle Trail on Tuesday afternoon, the 12th anniversary of Dickersons death.
An incident report made public Thursday by the Bartow County Sheriffs Office indicated that deputies and Raleigh police detective Zeke Morse arrived at Lentinis mobile home at 1 p.m. Tuesday, but she was not at home. The deputies waited at the home until about 4 p.m. when Lentini pulled into the driveway driving a purple Mazda, according to the incident report.
A deputy told her he had a warrant for her arrest, charging her with murder.
Lentini told the officers she thought she was going to have a panic attack, or heart attack, but she never showed signs of passing out or trouble breathing, according to the incident report.
The deputies arrival Tuesday was one of several visits in recent months. On Aug. 6, four days after Lentini posted on Facebook that her husband had left her broke, she attempted to commit suicide, according to the Bartow County Sheriffs Office.
Sheriffs deputies arrived at the home just before 8:30 p.m. Aug. 6 after her son, Timothy Piper, 28, called 911 to report the suicide attempt, according to an incident report.
Piper told the sheriffs deputy that he found his mother on the floor inside her home with a drop cord around her neck. The deputy, Brittney Watkins, reported seeing an orange drop cord hanging from a bannister in the home and she overheard Lentini say, I just want to die, while being escorted out of the home by emergency medical workers, according to the incident report.
Judge Keith Gregory ordered Lentini to be held at the Wake County jail without bail.