The best piece of news I’ve heard in a long time:
Bennett case cracked
Police say arrest of Raleigh man solves killing.
Planten was arrested in connection with the 2002 murder of Stephanie Bennett.
RALEIGH — A three-year hunt for the intruder who bound, raped and strangled 23-year-old Stephanie Bennett in her North Raleigh apartment has culminated in the arrest of a Raleigh man.
Drew Edward Planten, 35, was charged with murder Wednesday and placed in the Wake County jail, according to a news release from the Raleigh Police Department. He was taken into custody in the 4000 block of Reedy Creek Road at 4:38 p.m., police said.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Drug Protection Division is at 4000 Reedy Creek Road. The department’s Web site describes Planten as a chemistry technician in a fertilizer laboratory.
Raleigh police would not describe how they cracked the case, other than a statement from Chief Jane Perlov crediting “old-fashioned police work coupled with modern science.”
Bennett’s father, Carmon Bennett of Rocky Mount, Va., said he first heard Planten’s name when police called him about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday.
“I’m happy that he’s off the street,” Bennett said. “We appreciate the Raleigh Police Department and the community of Raleigh. We had a lot of cooperation down there.”
Police found Stephanie Bennett’s body the afternoon of May 21, 2002, at Bridgeport Apartments near Lake Lynn.
Bennett had celebrated her 23rd birthday three weeks before she was killed. An employee of a contractor for IBM, she was planning to move to Greenville, S.C., where her fiance lived.
Police think a man entered Bennett’s apartment by removing a screen and climbing through a window as she slept. Once inside, he bound Bennett’s wrists and ankles and gagged her. The man later wrapped a wire or rope around her throat and twisted it from behind until she strangled.
Along with a shelf stereo, the killer took $8 from her wallet.
Investigators said the orderly state of the murder scene indicated an organized and systematic perpetrator.
A few weeks before Bennett was killed, a neighbor reported seeing a man crouching behind some bushes and peering through Bennett’s window. A composite sketch of the peeper generated calls but no arrests.
Investigators and the department’s psychologist read books, talked to experts and even tied up a police department secretary to simulate the crime. The suspect may have had a rape fantasy involving sexual bondage, which he acted out with a consensual partner before killing Bennett, police said in 2002.
In July 2003, police tipped their hand about what evidence the killer had left behind. A speck of DNA found at the crime scene indicated the killer was white, with 92 percent Indo-European heritage and 8 percent Native American.
Bennett’s father offered a $100,000 reward. In May 2004, police released a videotape of the crime scene. In May 2005, police set up a hot line for telephone tips and re-issued a description of a person of interest: a thin build with light brown or blond hair. He walked a large dog and was often seen wearing a dark, hooded sweat shirt.
Five months passed before the police, for the first time, could give their suspect a name.
Bennett said he knew Planten was a chemist but said he had few details about how police focused on Planten. “I think, though, with leads and conversations with a peeping Tom.”
A co-worker of Planten’s, C. Paul Chitnis, said described Planten as a “simple man” who was quiet and got his work done.
Court records indicate that as recently as June, Planten lived at Snipe Creek Lane, less than a mile from Bennett’s home.
Planten has no criminal record in North Carolina other than traffic citations, court records show.
At Raleigh Police Headquarters Wednesday, an elevator opened about 10:35 p.m. and Planten shuffled out.
Detectives escorted the handcuffed man, who kept his gaze on the ground. His long, stringy, brown hair shielded his face, and his thin frame was bent over as he was slowly led to a Raleigh patrol car waiting to take him two blocks to the Wake County jail.