Police Investigate 2002 Homicide of Waynesboro Woman
Police in Waynesboro went public Wednesday with a homicide case that's offered only dead ends for the past 10 years. But only recently have investigators learned the victim's identity. Now they're hoping you can help solve the crime.
September 2002 was the last time anyone saw Karen Santillan Tait alive, but Waynesboro police had no reason to look for her until an investigation of her husband raised red flags.
It took help from West Virginia State Police, the FBI, Interpol and even the Philippine government just to confirm her fate.
At the age of 23, Karen Tait vanished, but almost no one knew she was missing. Police didn't start looking for her until nine years later, while investigating her husband - Thomas Neal Tait - for alleged child pornography. During a news conference about the case, police say they can't rule him out as a suspect.
Capt. Kelly Walker with Waynesboro police said, "Thomas Tait told investigators that Karen simply left, and he presumed that she had returned to her family in the Philippines."
Karen immigrated to the United States in 2000, gave birth soon after, and lived with her husband and child in a duplex on Fairfax Avenue in Waynesboro. Then in September 2002, West Virginia State Police began investigating a seemingly unrelated case - the discovery of a woman's body in the Greenbrier State Forest. It was quickly ruled a homicide.
"Every effort I should say was made then to try and determine who she was," said Sgt. W.A. Pendleton with West Virginia State Police. "But we didn't even know at the time that she was missing."
West Virginia State Police had DNA evidence, but no one to compare it to until Waynesboro police learned of its missing persons case in 2011. Investigators got a DNA profile partly from Tait's family in the Philippines, who had begun to fear for her safety, but didn't have the means to reach out for help.
"They have been very helpful to us as well…in trying to paint this picture that goes back over a decade," Walker said. "They're devastated, to say the least... and our hearts go out to them completely."
Police in particular want to hear from anyone who knew Karen or Thomas Tait or lived in their Fairfax Avenue neighborhood 10 to 12 years ago. If you have any information, call Waynesboro police or Central Shenandoah Crime Stoppers at 1-800-322-2017.
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