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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Jury selection will begin in the trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting and killing a member of the North Carolina state Board of Education.

32-year old Jason Williford has pleaded not guilty to charges that he raped and beat 62-year-old Kathy Taft. The Greenville resident and grandmother was staying at a friend’s house in Raleigh while recovering from surgery when she was killed in March 2010.

Willford was arrested in April 2010 after police say they found DNA evidence on a cigarette butt linking him to the crime. His attorneys unsuccessfully tried to have that evidence thrown out, arguing police should have obtained a search warrant before picking up the evidence.

Williford could face the death penalty if he’s convicted in the trial that begins today.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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