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Police Probe Death of NCCU Student at Apartments

Posted January 4, 2007
Updated January 8, 2007

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— Durham police are investigating what they say is the suspicious death of a North Carolina Central University student whose body was found in an apartment building near campus.

Investigators received a report at about 10 a.m. Thursday that a maintenance worker had found a woman at the bottom of a stairwell at Campus Crossing Apartments. Her belongings were scattered about the body, and a pool of blood was on the bottom step, police said.

The woman was identified as Denita Monique Smith, a graduate mass communications student from Charlotte. Smith received a bachelor's degree in English from N.C. Central, worked at the campus newspaper and had planned to wrap up her thesis this semester, university officials said.

"She really could have done anything she wanted to do. She had a very bright future," professor Thomas Evans said. "It just sucks the air out of the room. We loved her dearly, and we're going to miss her a lot."

"I think it's devastating when you lose someone like Denita with so much promise and such a good person," Chancellor James Ammons said. "I think it's going to be a long time before this community heals."

N.C. Central Police Chief Willie Williams said Smith lived on the second floor of the apartment complex and was found on the first floor. He said it was too early to determine a cause of death or whether it was a homicide, suicide or an accident.

"I'm very, very concerned any time I have a death within my jurisdiction," Williams said at a press conference.

N.C. Central plans to increase security over the next few days to help calm any fears in the community, he said. Patrols will expand from 12 hours a day to round-the-clock, he said.

The apartment complex, located on East Cornwallis Road, is privately owned, but the university leases it, Williams said. Numerous students live there, he said.

The university planned to make counselors available to help students and staff cope with the death, he said.

Police said they received reports of gunshots at the apartment complex at about 8 a.m. Thursday, but officers dispatched to the area couldn't find anything. Police said they don't know whether the reports might be related to Smith's death.

Anyone with information related to Thursday's shooting is asked to call Durham CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200.
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