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Woman killed after leaping from car to escape attacker

It was a chilling 911 call: a woman crying for help as a knife-wielding man broke into her home before dawn Wednesday.

Catawba County authorities said Tabatha Spake Heavner, 40, of Newton was stabbed and then was dragged to her car by the intruder.

Their trip south together on U.S. 321 would turn deadly.

Based on the 911 call, the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office issued an alert about a kidnapping and stabbing. Deputies said they were looking for a 50-year-old man driving a 2003 white Honda Accord.

Then, as Heavner and her abductor reached Gastonia, Heavner tried to escape, authorities said. She jumped from the moving car into the southbound lanes, but was struck by a vehicle.

Authorities said her abductor got out of the car, walked over and stabbed Heavner again as she fought back.

Then several more vehicles ran over Heavner, who died at the scene.

Aaron Compton Jr., 49, of Granite Falls, was being held without bond in the Catawba County Detention Facility on charges of murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree burglary. His first court appearance is Friday.

Compton has a record of violence against women going back to at least the 1980s, and is currently on the North Carolina sex offender registry. In 1987, Compton was found guilty of assault on a female and in 1994 was convicted of second-degree rape in Caldwell County. Two former wives filed domestic violence complaints against him in 2005 and 2008, records show.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said Compton and Heavner had been dating but split up in July. The sheriff said Compton stopped at a Walmart and bought a hunting knife on the way to Heavner’s home Wednesday morning.

Heavner was killed shortly before 6 a.m. in the southbound lanes of U.S. 321 at the C. Grier Beam Boulevard interchange, near Gaston College in Dallas. Several motorists called 911 about that time, saying they had seen a person struck by a truck on the road.

After Heavner died, authorities said, Compton drove her car back to Catawba County and surrendered to deputies there without incident.

The mother of two children, Heavner had recently rented an apartment in Newton.

But for more than a year, she had lived in another apartment complex across from Annette Robinson and her husband.

On Wednesday, Robinson, 28, remembered her former neighbor as “a really sweet person.”

When Robinson’s husband was at work, Heavner would come by and “always make sure I was OK.”

Heavner had completed college courses in the dental field and planned to work as a dental assistant, Robinson said.

Robinson also knew Compton. They’d met and talked and she said “he seemed real nice.”

She’d never seen Compton and Heavner argue. “He was nice to her,” Robinson said. “He didn’t act like the type of person who’d do this.”

On Wednesday, Robinson struggled to understand the violence that had taken the life of her former neighbor.

“I was just shocked,” Robinson said. “I just couldn’t believe it was her.”

Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

DePriest: 704-868-7745 Twitter: @jdepriest
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