DA will try for death penalty in murder of North Hills mom
Posted January 4, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The families of Travion Devonte Smith and Melissa Huggins-Jones sat quietly on opposite sides of the courtroom Monday while Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway outlined how a jury would be selected to decide Smith's fate.
The Raleigh man, 23, was among three people charged in connection with the May 2013 murder of Huggins-Jones in her North Hills apartment.
His co-defendant, Ronald Lee Anthony, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in September and received a life sentence.
Sarah Rene Redden, of Wake Forest, who allegedly served as the getaway driver for Smith and Anthony, has agreed to testify against him.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller will ask jurors to impose the death penalty if Smith is found guilty, a rarity in Wake County that could extend the time it takes to seat a jury.
A Wake County jury has not sent someone to death row since 2007.
The last person to face the death penalty in Wake County was Armond Devega in May of 2014. His jury opted for a sentence of life in prison.
Found by daughter
Huggins-Jones' 8-year-old daughter sought help from construction workers outside their home after she was unable to wake her mother on the morning of May 14, 2013.
They found Huggins-Jones dead in her bed, covered in blood. An autopsy determined she died from repeated blows to her head and neck.
A laptop stolen from the apartment directly below Huggins-Jones turned up in Wake Forest, and investigators were able to use DNA evidence to link the computer to the three suspects.
In a preliminary hearing, Smith's lawyer said that Redden initially accused both men of Higgins-Jones' murder, but has changed her story, pointing the finger primarily at Anthony.
"She is now saying it is Ronald Anthony, and that Ronald Anthony alone killed Ms. Huggins-Jones," said Jonathan Broun, a defense attorney. "Ronald told her he stabbed (Huggins-Jones) to death. (Smith) did not personally hit, stab or hurt Ms. Huggins-Jones. She also said she has no indication that Travion went into Ms. Huggins-Jones' bedroom or was present when (Anthony) killed her."