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Husband suspect in woman’s unsolved death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Ten years after a woman's body was found in Greenbrier State Forest, authorities have obtained a warrant charging her husband with the crime.

State Police notified authorities in Waynesboro, Va., on Friday that a warrant charging Thomas Neal Tait, 52, with first-degree murder would be served on him at Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton, Va. Tait is already awaiting sentencing for possession of child pornography.

Tait, a Waynesboro resident, was arrested in July 2012 and charged with 20 counts of possession of child porn, according to a news release issued by Waynesboro police.

Police found evidence Tait possessed child porn in April 2011 when they searched his home while investigating allegations of child sexual abuse. Media outlets reported he had more than 80,000 images of child porn on his computer.

Tait was convicted in September of this year and is facing a possible 100-year sentence.

It wasn't until investigators began looking into Tait's past regarding the child porn charges that the remains found in West Virginia were identified as his wife, Karen Santillan Tait.

Philippine-born Karen Santillan married Thomas Tait in the Philippines in 1998 and legally emigrated to the U.S. in 2000. She gave birth to a child later that year, and the family lived in Waynesboro until 2002 when Karen went missing.

When investigators asked Thomas about Karen's whereabouts, he told them she left him and he presumed she went back to her family in the Philippines. He said she had no contact with him or their child since.

The child remained with Thomas until the arrest.

Investigators then began trying to determine if Karen had in fact relocated. Karen's family in the Philippines hadn't heard from her since 2002.

That information led Waynesboro investigators to open an involuntary missing persons case in December 2011. Karen's information, including a DNA profile made up of DNA samples from her child and her parents, was entered into several databases including the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

It was in CODIS where investigators found a match linking Karen to an unidentified remains case in West Virginia.

A passerby discovered the remains in September 2002.

Karen was positively identified by dental records from the Philippines and other additional DNA testing. She was 23 at the time of her death.

The state Medical Examiner's office also determined the cause of death as homicide.

The case remains under investigation by Virginia and West Virginia authorities.

Anyone with information may call their local West Virginia State Police detachment or the Waynesboro Police Department at 540-942-6511.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.


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