The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

November 15, 2012

Decade-old remains identified as Va. woman

Two-state investigation into her murder begins

A Virginia woman whose body was found in the Greenbrier State Forest a decade ago has recently become a homicide investigation and authorities are requesting assistance from the public to solve the case.

Investigating authorities say that the West Virginia Medical Examiner determined in October that the body found in September 2002, was that of Karen Santillan Tait, who would have been 23 at the time of her death.

What led investigators to finally determine the body that has been unidentified for 10 years was Tait’s began when her husband, Thomas Neal Tate, 52, of Waynesboro, Va., was investigated in 2011 and convicted in September 2012 for possession of child pornography.

Waynesboro Police also investigated Tait for alleged sexual abuse of a child, which remains an active investigation.

Authorities say that during those investigations, they became concerned about the whereabouts and welfare of Karen Tait, who was a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines, married Thomas Tait in 1998, and legally immigrated to the United States in July 2000. Karen Tait had a child in 2000 and lived with her family in Waynesboro until 2002, when her whereabouts became unknown.

Thomas Tait told investigators that his wife simply left and he presumed that she had returned to her family in the Philippines. Since 2002, Karen Tait had not had any contact with her husband or child.

When officers contacted family members in the Philippines, however, it was learned that they had not seen or heard from Karen Tait since 2002; and, “no trace” of her existed in any database during the last 10 years, which led the Waynesboro police to declare her an involuntary missing person.

Using DNA profiles from her parents and biological child, a profile of Karen Tait was entered into the Combined DNA Index System, which led investigators to the unidentified remains of a young, small-framed female of Asian descent, which had been found in the Greenbrier State Forest.

The homicide investigation by the Waynesboro Police Department is being worked jointly with the West Virginia State Police.

Anyone who knew Karen and/or Thomas Tait, especially between 2000 and 2002, when they lived at 908 Fairfax Ave., Apt. 1 in Waynesboro, Va., are asked to contact Cpl. Alyssa Campbell at 540-942-6511 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-322-2017.

Investigators also are trying to find information about a 1990 blue-gray Cadillac DeVille with the Vehicle Identification Number 1G6CD5339L4366432. Police say the car was owned by the Taits during that time period and is visible in at least one photo of the couple in an unknown wooded area.

— E-mail: chiggins@register-herald.com

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