Local News

Woman Arrested in Shooting Death of NCCU Student

Posted January 9, 2007

— Durham police Tuesday arrested a 911 dispatcher in Greensboro in connection with last week's shooting death of a North Carolina Central University student.

Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 27, was arrested Tuesday evening in the slaying of Denita Monique Smith, 25.

Smith, a graduate student from Charlotte, was shot inside a stairwell of the Campus Crossing Apartments last Thursday morning and then fell down several steps to the sidewalk.

A maintenance worker at the apartment complex found her body at about 10:15 a.m. Police had responded to an earlier call for shots fired at approximately 8:30 a.m., but found nothing at that time.

Police said witnesses saw a woman driving away from the apartment complex in a burgundy Ford Explorer less than two hours before Smith's body was found.

According to Guliford Metro 911 officials, the department hired Crawley in 2000. She was suspended after being named a person of interest on Saturday in Smith's murder, the department said in a written statement issued Tuesday night.

Sources tell WRAL that Crawley  was arrested at about 7 p.m.  Clad in handcuffs and shackles, she was led into the Durham County Jail late Tuesday evening.

Police have refused to discuss any possible motives, but said that Smith's death did not appear to be a random act of violence.

Detectives spent the last five days interviewing more than a dozen people, including Smith's family members, friends and neighbors.

Investigators also spent several hours Friday interviewing someone they had identified only as a person of interest in the case. It's unknown whether Crawley was the person interviewed.

WRAL first learned on Monday evening that investigators were focusing their attention in Greensboro. It was not immediately clear why because Durham police would not comment.

In response to the shooting, the Durham Police Department will conduct a Project Safe Neighborhoods Community Response on Wednesday. It is a strategy utilized for violent incidents or crimes likely to have a retaliation effect among those involved.

The response consists of a door-to-door canvassing of the neighborhood where the crime occurred and where the victim live.

Smith received a bachelor's degree in English from N.C. Central and had planned to wrap up her thesis this semester. She was engaged to a Greensboro police officer.

Her funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at University Park Baptist Church in Charlotte.

In a written statement, N.C. Central Chancellor James H. Ammons said: "What happened to Denita was unconscionable. She was an outstanding and promising young student whose life has been cut short. The arrest of a suspect will help us to begin the process of healing."

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  • snuggles Mar 9, 2007

    I am sitting here reading the last comment and all I can do is shake my head. What in the world does this child getting kill have to do with NCCU....nothing.....u r just a silly as a box of rocks.....I can not believe u went there. I so mad at u right now, I can not even think straight..

  • nisa-pizza Jan 12, 2007

    I thought this posting was about Denita Smith's murder. How did this turn into people blaming the victim for choosing to attend this nationally ranked university in literally the same neighborhood as Duke University? What does this have to do with the fact the the accused murderer was employed in law enforcement and came from Greensboro to commit this crime? If this is in fact some sort of love triangle as some suspect then all one has to do is look to the cover story of People magazine for the Michelle Young murder in Raleigh for something remotely close to this situation. The neighborhood and it's occupants have nothing to do with Denita's murder. She is not to blame for choosing NCCU to study and the neighborhood had no part in it. Please find another dead horse to beat folks and focus on the fact that this woman has been slain and use another post for that debate. My prayers are with Denita's family.

  • hturay2003 Jan 11, 2007

    I am extremly disapointed at the negative comments posted on this site in reference to North Carolina Central University and the unfortunate passing of Denita Smith. NCCU is one of the most prestigious HBCU's in the nation, with prestigous alumni including governor Mike Easley, whom the ignorant person who posted that comment probably voted for. In a world filled with such violence and corruption you would think that a communnity would ralley around its universities and the students that choose to further their education and become self sufficient contributing members of society. As a graduate student at NCCU and an alumni of another prestigious local university i am disgusted by the ignorance of some of your readers, who are obviously uneducated on the accomplishments and credentials of NCCU. As I sit in my graduate classes surrounded by students who attended Duke, UNC, UVA, NCSU, Yale etc, and now hold their heads high as eagles, Im encouraged that stupidity ends with their comments.

  • clarlynda Jan 10, 2007

    I take serious offense to the posting(s) that suggest that NCCU is a fourth rate university or that her choice to attend NCCU led to her untimely death. I am a NCCU graduate. I am in my last year at NCSU working on my PhD in Bioinformatics. Before making such outlandish comments, do your research. North Carolina Central University is a nationally ranked university. In addition, the law school which is located on the same campus , is nationally ranked as well. Even if a university is in a great neighborhood, violence may find it. If I recall a student just last year plowed through a crowd on the campus of the UNC Chapel Hill. Students have been abducted and killed at campuses across the nation. The list could go on. Duke University is only miles away and surrounded by the same crime...would you not send your student there either? If you will check the news archives over the past 10 years several co-eds have been raped and at least one murdered around Duke University.

  • klynettew Jan 10, 2007

    How can one be so insensitive towards an act such as this. This heinous act could have happened anywhere in the United States, so making such an ignorant comment as that shows how intelligent you really are. As far as the crime in Durham and around NCCU... there is no more than other campus in he UNC system or cities in NC. Crime is everywhere and trust and believe if someone really wants to get you they will no matter where you live or go to school.

  • jpalmer Jan 10, 2007

    NCCU is in a crime infested area. It has everything to do with NCCU.

  • WhatIsaid Jan 10, 2007

    Choices!!!- Mike, so u think that because she chose to attend NCCU is why she was murdered? Don’t be that way. Look at her accomplishments, being an NCCU grad in Durham, NC. This terrible situation has nothing to do with where she attended school. If she had chose to attend UNC in Chapel Hill, Duke or NC State and someone wanted her dead they would have traveled to those places to do it regardless of the abundance or lack of security. This murder has nothing to do with NCCU. I attended NCCU and wasn’t a victim of any type of crime. As long as you are living and breathing you are susceptible to being victimized and it doesn’t matter where you reside. So, what about your choice to continue to live in Durham, 5 miles away from the school? If it was really an issue why haven’t you moved? Let’s pray for her family and the offender’s (still undetermined) family, they both are suffering from a lost.

  • Glass Half Full Jan 10, 2007

    I don't think that's a mug shot. In the film of her being brought in, her hair was much shorter. Also, the shirt she's wearing in the photograph of the side shot, the top of a patch is visible on the sleeve. As has been said before, let's hold judgement until her involvement has been proven.

  • wigginswfaa Jan 10, 2007

    Are the pictures above from the suspects line up? If so why is she smiling?

  • owlady Jan 10, 2007

    That was a quick arrest in this case. We are still awaiting an arrest in the Michelle Young murder. That one is way over-due.
    I suspect motive involving a love-triangle in both of these murders.