The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 23, 2013

Murder suspect arraigned in Greenbrier County

A Virginia man suspected in the 2002 murder of his wife was arraigned in Greenbrier County Magistrate Court Tuesday and remanded to the Southern Regional Jail without bond.

Thomas Neal Tait, 52, of Waynesboro, Va., is charged with the murder of Karen Santillan Tait, a Philippine citizen whom he married in 1998. Karen Tait legally immigrated to the United States with her husband in July 2000 and gave birth to a child later that year.

In 2002, the woman disappeared.

On Sept. 26 of that year, Donald Osborne discovered human remains in the Greenbrier State Forest at Harts Run and immediately notified the police.

West Virginia State Police officers, including First Lt. Vince Deeds, arrived at the scene and found the remains of a petite female. In due course, the remains were examined by Dr. James A. Kaplan of the West Virginia State Medical Examiner’s office and Dr. Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution Department of Anthropology.

Owsley concluded that the remains were those of a small female between 25 and 33 years of age, with Asian ancestry.

The unidentified woman’s dental records and DNA were placed in national crime registries in the spring of 2003.

Eight years later, the Waynesboro (Va.) Police Department began an investigation into the reported sexual abuse of a child that was alleged to have occurred over the course of several years. The investigation soon expanded to include child pornography.

As a result of that investigation, Thomas Neal Tait was convicted of 20 counts of possession of child pornography in September of 2012.

During the course of the abuse and pornography investigation, police became concerned about the whereabouts of Tait’s wife, learning that her family in the Philippines had lost contact with her in 2002.

Waynesboro police opened a criminal missing person case on Karen Tait Dec. 16, 2011, entering information about the woman — including a DNA profile developed using DNA from her child — into crime databases, including those where West Virginia authorities had previously placed DNA from the unidentified remains found in the forest.

The information appeared to match.

After a series of dental, forensic and DNA testing, Kaplan determined the remains found in Greenbrier State Forest matched Karen Santillan Tait. The medical examiner listed her cause of death as homicide.

According to the Greenbrier County Magistrate Court file, Thomas Tait was interviewed by two U.S. Department of State law enforcement agents Nov. 1, 2012, at which time he indicated he had murdered his wife.

No further hearings have been scheduled in the murder case, which is now assigned to Greenbrier Magistrate Brenda Campbell.

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