Local News

First of two men charged in UNC professor's beating death heading to trial

Posted March 6

— Jury selection will begin Tuesday in the murder trial of one of two men charged in the beating death of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor almost three years ago.

Feng Liu, 59, a research professor in UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy, was taking a lunchtime walk on July 23, 2014, when he was beaten with a rock and robbed near the intersection of Ransom Street and West University Drive, police said. He died the following day at UNC Hospitals.

Troy Arrington Jr., 27, of Johnson Street in Chapel Hill, and Derick Davis II, 23, of Scots Pine Crossing in Durham, are charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the case.

Arrington will go to trial first, and Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Monday that he might call Davis as a witness. A trial date for Davis hasn't been set yet.

Defense attorneys argued Monday that statements Arrington made to police after his arrest about being in the Durham County jail should be excluded from testimony during the trial because they're not relevant to the case and would be prejudicial.

Public defender Dana Graves noted that charges that Arrington had broken into a Durham home and stole a Yorkshire terrier were dismissed because of lack of evidence.

Woodall countered that Arrington and Davis met in jail, so it is relevant. He also said jurors will hear evidence that Arrington was wearing an electronic ankle monitor as part of his pretrial release.

"The state's theory is they were there looking for houses to break into or people to rob," Woodall said.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour compromised by ruling that jurors can hear about the ankle monitor but won't hear about his previous charges. Printed copies of his statements to police will be redacted.

Last week, Baddour ruled that jurors could hear about a previous incident in which two Orange County deputies saw Arrington pick up a large rock to hit someone with during an argument.

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