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NEW INFO: Jason Williford Gets Life In Kathy Taft Killing

A man who was convicted for the rape and murder of Kathy Taft was spared the death penalty this afternoon.

Jurors gave Jason Williford life in prison without the chance for parole.

The Greenville woman who served on the state school board was killed in March 2010 in the Raleigh home of a friend while she was recuperating from cosmetic surgery.

The verdict was read in the Wake County courtroom around 2:45 p.m.

Jurors had deliberated about five hours since yesterday afternoon.

As the judge was formally sentencing Williford, Taft's four children spoke.

Jessica Gorall said her mother would have been mortified if she had known what the jurors had endured. She said in between the attack and Williford's arrest, Gorall said she feared "the demon would come after me". "Jason, I don't know why you don't look up here," Gorall told Williford. "But you took away my mom, my dearest friend, my mentor. When you murdered and raped her you killed something within me and I will never be the same."

Paige Fuqua said she knew her mother would die someday, growing as an older woman. "I have no mother," Fuqua told the court. "My children have only one grandmother. You took away our mother and our home." she told Williford. "The reality is we still need our mom. We were not finished loving her."

“As much anger and hatred that I have in my heart toward you on what you did to my mother, I think it would be dishonorable to her to verbally attack you,” said Jonathan Taft. "I will say instead, that if you would have been so lucky to have met her under different circumstances, there's no doubt in my mind that she would have left the same positive impact on you as she did on everyone else she met.”

Williford did not address the judge.

The judge sentenced the 32-year-old man to serve life without parole on the murder conviction and a minimum of 23 years for the rape.

Taft was on the state Board of Education for 15 years and a close friend of Governor Beverly Perdue. We caught up with the governor in Martin County, minutes after the sentencing. "She was a marvelous woman, one of my dearest friends," the governor told WITN's Lindsey Fry. "To think that this animal did this to her is unconscionable to me. I'm glad that I'll never have to see him or another woman in America will ever have to see him and so God will answer his crimes at some point in time."


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A Wake County jury has begun their second day of deliberations on whether a man should get a death sentence for killing Kathy Taft.

Jurors in the Jason Williford capital murder case began deliberating in the sentencing phase Wednesday afternoon. Last Friday the same jury found him guilty of the first degree murder and first degree rape of Taft.

The Greenville woman who served on the state school board was killed in March 2010 in the Raleigh home of a friend while she was recuperating from cosmetic surgery.


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The fate of a Raleigh man is in the hands of a jury who must now decide whether he should live or die for killing Greenville resident Kathy Taft.

Jurors got the case at 3:12 p.m. and the judge allowed them to go home for the day just before 5:00 p.m. They will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

On Friday, the same jury unanimously found Jason Williford guilty of the first degree murder and first degree rape of the longtime state school board member.

Taft was killed in March 2010 in the Raleigh home of a friend while she was recuperating from cosmetic surgery.

Earlier today, prosecutors asked the jury to give Williford the death sentence, while Williford's attorneys told them not to put to death a mentally ill man.

Assistant District Attorney Trish Jacobs walked the jury through what they must consider, discussing both the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case. She told jurors when you weigh those factors, the only appropriate sentence for Williford is death.

Williford did not take the witness stand during the trial or during sentencing. His lawyers argued that his mental disorders, along with addictions to drugs and alcohol would outweigh the state's aggravating factors and that his life should be spared.

Jury selection in the capital murder trial began April 9th, and actual testimony in the trial lasted two weeks.


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Testimony in the sentencing phase of the Jason Williford capital murder trial is over, and jurors could get the case on Wednesday.

Williford was convicted on Friday with the first degree murder and rape of Kathy Taft, a state school board member from Greenville.

In March 2010, Taft was recuperating from cosmetic surgery at a Raleigh friend's home when she was attacked while sleeping.

For the past day and a half the Wake County jury has been hearing evidence for Williford's sentencing. Prosecutors want jurors to give the 32-year-old man the death penalty.

Testimony wrapped up around 11:15 a.m. The judge dismissed the jurors until Wednesday morning so he and lawyers could discuss exactly what will be included in his final instructions to them.

Closing arguments are expected at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.


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The former girlfriend of Jason Williford says she was attacked the morning after delivering what they thought was his son.

On Friday, Williford was convicted for the rape and beating death of state school board member Kathy Taft of Greenville. Taft was recuperating from cosmetic surgery at a Raleigh friend's home when she was murdered.

The capital murder trial has now entered the sentencing phase where both sides can present evidence. Trembling on the witness stand, Mary James says in 2004 Williford pushed her up against a hospital room door, spit on her, pulled her hair and kicked her multiple times after she questioned about him calling escort services hours before. It was later determined that Williford was not the father of the child.

James said she never told anyone about acts of sexual violence during their relationship, saying she was embarrassed. "I had learned not to fight back," James told jurors. "It would just make it worse, he would be more aggressive."

James was the only witness called by prosecutors.

The first witness for the defense was Williford's father. During that testimony, Williford wiped away tears while sitting at the defense table.

Keith Williford said he "fell apart" when he learned of his son's arrest. "That just sucked the life out of me," Williford testified. "I can't describe how I felt, I love Jason. I will never quit loving him."

The man's father said his son's arrest caused his family great pain. When asked if Williford's death would cause him added pain, with a distraught look his father said, "I don't know if I could bear that."

Testimony in the sentencing hearing continues Tuesday morning at the Wake County courthouse.


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Jurors have found Jason Williford guilty of first degree murder in the death of Kathy Taft.

The Greenville woman, who served on the State Board of Education, was staying at a friend's home in Raleigh after cosmetic surgery when she was attacked in March of 2010.

Jurors got the case late Thursday, and returned their verdict shortly before 3:00 p.m. Friday. They also found the man guilty of first degree rape.

The judge will have jurors return Monday morning where they will hear testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Williford.

Jurors apparently did not believe defense lawyers who tried to prove the Raleigh man was mentally ill and did not use premeditation in the death of Taft.


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Jurors deliberated for about an hour and a half Thursday afternoon on the fate of a man accused of raping and beating to death a state school board member from Greenville.

Jason Williford could get the death penalty if convicted in the death of Kathy Taft. The Greenville woman was staying at a friend's home in Raleigh after cosmetic surgery when she was attacked in March of 2010.

Jurors got the case late Thursday, after hours of closing arguments from lawyers.

The defense first laid out their arguments on the basis that they built their entire case on--that there is no way that Williford had the willful intent to go into the home that Taft was staying in to rape and murder her.

Each of Williford's attorneys, Diane Savage, Ernest Conner, and Michael Driver spent nearly an hour stating their case for the jury this morning. They all went back to how Williford had been under the influence of drugs, alcohol and also has a history of mental issues.

Conner told jurors that Williford is guilty of 2nd degree murder, 1st degree rape, and non-felony breaking and entering and deserves jail for those crimes, but not premeditated first degree murder.

There appeared to be little emotion on Williford's face when addressed by the judge to confirm what Conner just said.

Prosecution argued that Williford had ample opportunity to stop what he was doing. For example, the rock being a blunt force weapon, with each strike, prosecutors say he chose to continue with what he was doing.

They told the jury his mental capacity was not diminished that night and he knew what he was doing, and pointed to how Williford used socks on his hands to cover his fingerprints, didn't use the rock he had to break in because it would have made noise, and used a piece of plastic to jimmy the door open. All signs, prosecutors say, he was not diminished.

"Kathy spoke to us alright, we told you she would, she still speaks to us, she speaks to us in all of this evidence we have going on in this particular case," Assistant District Attorney David Saacks told jurors.

"All she wants, and all we all want, is justice in this case, and in this case justice is nothing less than first degree murder, first degree rape, and first degree burglary. The defendant took something that night alright, besides the panties, and besides the skull cap bandage that could have been on her. He took Kathy's life and he took her dignity and he did it all for his own pleasure and that's why we're here."

Jurors heard two weeks of testimony in the high profile case.

The judge told jurors to return Friday at 9:30 a.m. to continue deliberations.


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Testimony wrapped up Wednesday afternoon in the trial for a Raleigh man accused of raping and beating to death Kathy Taft.

Jason Williford could face the death penalty if convicted for killing the state school board member from Greenville as recovered from cosmetic surgery at a friend's Raleigh home in March 2010.

Both sides agree Williford broke in the home and attacked Taft while she slept, but the man's attorneys say he is not guilty of premeditated murder because of his mental problems.

Testimony in the capital murder case began two weeks ago and the case is expected to go to the jury Thursday.

Jury selection in the trial took more than a month to complete.


Previous Story

The defense has finished its testimony in the trial for a Raleigh man accused of raping and beating to death Kathy Taft.

Jason Williford could face the death penalty if convicted for killing the state school board member from Greenville as recovered from cosmetic surgery at a friend's Raleigh home in March 2010.

Williford's defense put on several experts who testified about the man's sexual addictions they say prompted the rape and murder.

Both sides agree Williford broke in the home and attacked Taft while she slept, but the man's attorneys say he is not guilty of premeditated murder because of his mental problems.

The trial could go to the jury on Wednesday.


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Prosecutors wrapped up their case against a man accused of raping and murdering a state school board member from Greenville.

Jason Williford is on trial for the rape and beating death of Kathy Taft while she recovered from cosmetic surgery at a friend's Raleigh home in March 2010.

The state completed this morning its case to the jury after presenting five days of testimony. The defense is now putting on their witnesses, the first which was a psychiatrist.

In opening statements, one of Williford's lawyers admitted his client killed Taft, but says there was no premeditation because of his mental illness.

If convicted, prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Williford.


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A Raleigh homicide detective says Kathy Taft's sister heard noises in the house the night she was attacked, and found the back door unlocked.

Jason Williford is accused of raping and beating to death the state school board member from Greenville while she recovered from cosmetic surgery at a friend's Raleigh home in March 2010.

In testimony Tuesday morning, Sgt. Jason Hodge told jurors that Taft's sister, Dina Holton, is in a Raleigh hospital. The officer did not say why she was hospitalized, but that she came to Raleigh with intentions to testify in the trial.

Holton, who lives in Oriental, was sleeping in the house the night her sister was attacked.

The detective testified that Holton said she was sleeping on the couch upstairs and thought she heard noises in the middle of the night. Holton thought she heard someone running down the steps and she got up around 3:00 a.m. and asked “Who is in this house?”

Holton told police she got up and noticed the back door of the house was unlocked. She even checked on her sister, saying she was snoring slightly. Holton said she was careful not to awake her sister.

Around 8:30 a.m. Holton then woke up and checked on her sister again. Detectives say she found her sister partially nude and blood in her bedroom.

A missing juror, that forced a delay in the trial on Monday was removed Tuesday morning.

Daycare issues caused the woman juror to miss Monday and testimony was delayed. When that same juror failed to show up Tuesday morning, the judge removed the juror and replaced them with an alternate. There is only one alternate left in the case.

If convicted, prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against Williford.


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A juror having problems with daycare has forced the delay in the trial for the man accused of killing Kathy Taft.

Testimony in the Jason Williford capital murder trial in Wake County is on hold until Tuesday morning.

Williford is accused of raping and beating to death the Greenville resident while she recovered from cosmetic surgery at a friend's Raleigh home.

Williford, who lived nearby, was arrested about a month later for the murder of the State Board of Education member.

In opening statements, the man's attorney didn't deny his client killed the woman, but said Williford is mentally ill.


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A state DNA expert testified Friday afternoon that Jason Williford's DNA was found on Kathy Taft and on the sheets in her bedroom.

Williford's DNA was first obtained by a discarded cigarette, and then matched with a mouth swab.

Taft, who lived in Greenville, was recovering from cosmetic surgery at a friend's Raleigh home when she was raped and killed in March 2010.

Williford, who lived nearby, was arrested about a month later for the murder of the State Board of Education member.

In opening statements, the man's attorney didn't deny his client killed the woman, but said Williford is mentally ill.

It took more than a month to select jurors in the death penalty case. Friday marked the third day of testimony in the trial.


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An attorney for the man accused of raping and killing Kathy Taft says the man was under the influence of whiskey, beer, marijuana and Ritalin that night. He told jurors that his client hit the state school board member in the head with a rock and then raped her.

Opening statements from lawyers began just before noon in Jason Williford's capital murder trial at the Wake County Courthouse.

Taft, who lived in Greenville, was recovering from cosmetic surgery at a friend's Raleigh home when she was killed in March 2010.

Prosecutors say Taft's skull had been crushed and pushed into her brain. The woman's sister found her the next morning, and thought the bleeding was from her surgery. At WakeMed, Taft's plastic surgeon discovered the extent of her injuries when he removed the woman's bandages.

Williford was arrested a month after the murder when police say DNA evidence on a cigarette butt they found linked him to evidence left in the bedroom. His attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have that evidence thrown out, arguing police should have obtained a search warrant before picking up the evidence.

But in his opening statement, Willford's attorney told jurors the man is mentally ill. Buddy Conner says because of his diminished mental capacity, Williford is not guilty of premeditated murder.

Conner says Williford broke into the home, not realizing anyone was inside. The attorney says his client panicked after Taft make a noise, striking her three time in the head with a rock and then he raped her.

Testimony in the trial begins this afternoon.



Previous Story:

Work continues to find one more alternate juror in the case of the man accused of raping and killing Kathy Taft of Greenville. The state school board member was found murdered in a home in Raleigh in March 2010.

Twelve jurors have been seated, and four alternates are needed in the murder trial of Jason Williford. So far, three are in place. Jury selection began April 9th at the Wake County Courthouse.

Williford could face the death penalty if convicted.



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Ten jurors have now been seated in the case of the man accused of raping and killing Kathy Taft of Greenville. The state school board member was found murdered in a home in Raleigh in March 2010.

Court insiders believe testimony in the trial of Jason Williford could start sometime in the middle of next week, approximately one month after jury selection got underway.

Williford could face the death penalty if convicted.



Previous Story:

The lengthy jury selection process continues in the trial for the accused killer of Kathy Taft of Greenville.

Jason Williford could face the death penalty if he's convicted of the rape and murder of the state school board member in March 2010.

So far, nine jurors have been seated. Twelve jurors are needed, plus a few alternates. Jury selection started April 9.



Previous Story:
A Raleigh man accused in the death of a member of North Carolina's State Board of Education is on trial for his life.

More jurors were being chosen Monday in the trial of 32-year-old Jason Williford. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he raped and battered 62-year-old Kathy Taft. Williford could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

The Greenville resident and grandmother was recovering from surgery at a friend's Raleigh home when she was killed in March 2010.

Williford was arrested the following month after police say DNA evidence on a cigarette butt they found linked him to the crime. His attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have that evidence thrown out, arguing police should have obtained a search warrant before picking up the evidence.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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