Admitted lookout sentenced to prison in 2013 North Hills murder
Posted April 18, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Under a plea agreement, a Wake Forest woman pleaded guilty Monday to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder in the beating death of Melissa Huggins-Jones, who was killed in her North Hills apartment in 2013.
Sarah Rene Redden was sentenced to 4-and-a-half to 6-and-a-half years in prison.
Redden, who was 18-year-old at the time of the murder, admitted to being the lookout on the night Huggins-Jones was killed by Travion Smith and her former boyfriend, Ronald Anthony. Smith was convicted of first-degree murder in the case in February, and Anthony pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2015.
Redden's attorney said the now 21-year-old wants the chance to parent her young son and pursue an education. She also said that Redden has nothing to do with the killing, and did not tell police because she was afraid of Anthony.
"(Redden) has accepted responsibility, for primarily what she did not do, after the murder," defense attorney Rosemary Godwin said. "If not for Ronald Anthony, (Redden) would never have seen the inside of a court room."
Dawn Wallace, Huggins-Jones' mother, said her family is happy to have this chapter of their lives behind them, and is thankful to be finished with the arduous court process.
"Four-and-a-half to 6-and-a-half years is not much, but I hope (Redden) can get an education and come out to raise her child to be a good person," Wallace said.
Redden also pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of breaking and entering a motor vehicle. She was sentenced to 24 months of supervised probation for those charges.
Redden was arrested in 2013 and will get credit for time served.
Prosecutors said Redden cooperated and testified for the state in Smith's trial, a case Godwin said would not have been successful without her help.
"I do find that you aided through your truthful testimony in the conviction of others responsible for these offenses," Judge Paul Ridgeway told Redden.
Experts testified during Smith's trial that Huggins-Jones suffered 18 blows to the face, neck and body the night she was murdered in May 2013.
Huggins-Jones was new to the Triangle, having divorced and moved from Tennessee to an apartment complex off Six Forks Road, in the North Hills area, with her 8-year-old daughter, Hannah Olivia Jones. Her son had stayed behind with his father in Tennessee to finish the school year.
On the morning of May 14, 2013, Hannah wandered out of the apartment and approached a nearby construction crew, asking for help. A construction worker followed the girl back into the apartment and found Huggins-Jones dead in her bed, covered in blood.
Redden testified against Smith in February, saying she was the lookout for Smith and Anthony.