Medical examiner: North Hills mom suffered 18 blows to face, body
Posted February 11, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Associate Chief Medical Examiner Lauren Scott took the stand late Thursday in the trial of Travion Smith and testified that 30-year-old Melissa Huggins-Jones suffered 18 blows to the face, neck and body the night she was murdered in May 2013.
Smith, 23, is one of three people charged with first-degree murder in connection to Huggins-Jones' death and could face the death penalty if convicted.
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.
On Thursday afternoon, Scott detailed Huggins-Jones' injuries as her family members wept in the audience.
"Not counting the bruises on her extremities, she suffered at least 18 different blows," Scott said. "Most of them were concentrated on the face, neck and upper chest. She had a total of 12 (blows) to the face and neck region."
While outlining Huggins-Jones' injuries, she said that most of the injuries were caused by sharp and blunt force trauma. Scott's testimony was cut short due to court recessing at 5 p.m., but she is expected to return to the stand Friday at 9:30 a.m.
For most of the day Thursday, several scientists testified for the state about DNA fingerprint evidence found at the scene. Some matched Huggins-Jones, but none of the evidence matched Smith or his co-defendents. Prosecutors said this was because the suspects were wearing gloves when they entered Huggins-Jones' apartment.
Ronald Lee Anthony and Sarah Rene Redden are also charged in Huggins-Jones' death. Anthony pleaded guilty in 2015 to first-degree murder, to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life in prison. He may testify against Smith. Redden, of Wake Forest, has not been offered a plea deal, but testified against Smith last week.
Testimony from City-County Bureau of Identification agent Tracy Davis showed the jury a PowerPoint presentation that outlined shoe impressions that were found at the scene.
Davis, a forensic examiner within the latent print unit, also discussed how she processes the impressions to make positive identifications.
Weather permitting, the state could wrap up its case by Friday afternoon. The defense would then have an opportunity to present testimony and evidence.