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Aberdeen man charged in ex-girlfriend's death

Posted August 22, 2012
Updated August 23, 2012

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— The Moore County Sheriff's Office arrested a man Wednesday night after deputies found the body of his former girlfriend near a landfill outside Aberdeen, authorities said. 

Michael Jason Berger, 35, of 726 Kennedy Circle in Aberdeen, was charged with murder and is being held without bond in the Moore County jail.

Deputies responding to a tip found the body of Crystal Rae Smith, 33, in a wooded area near the entrance to the county landfill, off N.C. Highway 5 between Aberdeen and Pinehurst, authorities said.

Investigators said Smith could have been dead since Sunday. Her body was sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Kimberly Marshall, who rented a room in Berger's home, said Thursday that she was still in shock over the allegation against him.

"I still can't picture this," Marshall said. "From the time I've known him, I would have never thought any of this."

Smith moved to the house about a month ago, Marshall said. Berger and Smith had known each other for 15 to 20 years and had previously dated, she said.

Crystal Smith, Moore County murder victim Woman texted roommate before she was killed

Marshall said she went the beach last weekend, and Smith sent her some text messages Sunday night in which she said she feared Berger would kill her.

She said she called Berger Monday morning after seeing the messages, and he told her Smith was asleep. She said he later called back and said Smith had left him Sunday night, and he told Marshall not to come home.

"He said he was really stressed, you know, and he was just really upset and he was crying and said he just didn't want me to see him that way," she said.

"I just keep on picking up the phone, just wishing that she would just text me and say, you know, 'Hey, April fools' or something," she said.

State Division of Adult Correction records show that Berger has been serving 24 months on probation after being convicted in June of assault by strangulation and assault on a female. Authorities said Smith wasn't the victim of those crimes.

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  • beaulahjackson4 Aug 24, 1:45 p.m.

    . A lot of us thought we knew what was up. We were wrong I am sorry to say.SilverWolf

    I thought that you were just informing as to what you know. Sorry you were all fooled. Sounds like you lost 2 friends or at least aquatints. I am just extremely suspicious. I have seen so many cases like this and just feel warning signs are there, love is blind for many I guess. I would personally take my friend's (the ex gf's) word over a man. I often say men may come and go but it's your women folk that hold you up(as far as being a female). I also have never dated someone that any of my friends have dated, but I guess in a smaller community that may happen. Sad situation.

  • SilverWolf Aug 24, 1:11 p.m.

    beaulah...

    I would agree with most every word you just said. I was reporting what I know of the situation, not passing judgement on anyone's motives. I see a lot of people questioning Crystal's motives. Mike made her believe the previous charge was false. He had a lot of people believing the previous charge was false. Crystal was friends with Mike's ex gf, so she knew more than others what was going on. Or she thought she did. A lot of us thought we knew what was up. We were wrong I am sorry to say.

  • beaulahjackson4 Aug 24, 1:00 p.m.

    @beaulahjackson4...her children are not grown. They all are under the age of 14. jaime c.

    Hmmmmmmm......so all of her children are under 14 and weren't living with her. Interesting. Now I'm curious as to why she wasn't the caretaker of her children.

    Sorry SilverWolf if any man was accused of A&B on an ex-girlfriend that'd be a huge red flag for me. If they keep you in the county for 120 days, that shouldn't be taken lightly either. I know a man that is interested in me, that travels in the same circles as I do. He's good-looking and a seemingly nice guy, but his ex-girlfriend (hardly know her) left him after he beat the tar out of her supposedly (smart gal, only took one time). I wouldn't touch that man with a ten foot pole. Even a hint of violence and you're off the list for this woman.

  • jaime c. Aug 24, 12:44 p.m.

    @beaulahjackson4...her children are not grown. They all are under the age of 14.

  • SilverWolf Aug 24, 12:39 p.m.

    Her children did not live with she and the accused. This is what I know. Mike did 120 days in Moore County jail for strangling his ex gf. The story went that it was all a lie and never happened. Crystal knew all about the charges and circumstances of the previous crime. Crystal, like many others, was going under the assumption that the former victim lied and that the charges she brought on the accused were false. A lot of people are waking up to the fact they have been fooled. It is sad it took the loss of someone's life to open a communities eyes.

  • beaulahjackson4 Aug 24, 12:28 p.m.

    So now, I just watched a report of the roommate speaking to wral that said Ms. Smith had know Mr. Berger for approx. 15 years and dated him, and moved in 1 month ago. That Mr. Berger was a very familiar face to law enforcement. So she supposedly moved in a month ago? How did she not know about his arrest in January assaulting another female by trying to strangle her, and he was sentenced in June. That community isn't a huge metropolis so how did she not know, and if she did how very foolish to date/move in with anyone that would assault another human being. Tell tale signs in my opinion were there, an available online. Sadly this cost her her life. With all we now know I just don't understand people anymore.

  • beaulahjackson4 Aug 24, 12:19 p.m.

    @beaulahjackson4....she did not move her 3 children in with him.
    jaime c.

    Good to know. Folks just keep referencing her 3 children. I guess they are/were all grown and out of her care then. I wish more women would look at arrest records of men they date/see/sleep with. With the internet it's pretty easy to research people. It took me seconds to see what all this man was arrested for in January. I'm sorry the woman lost her life, I just don't understand how she didn't know what he was charged with in January, and then sentenced to in June and she's gone in August.

  • jaime c. Aug 24, 11:34 a.m.

    @beaulahjackson4....she did not move her 3 children in with him.

  • ndadszucs Aug 24, 10:43 a.m.

    I just wanted to add the rest of what I had said in the previous comment that got cut off:

    They have to somehow deserve it. It has to stop.

  • PracticalMagick Aug 24, 9:46 a.m.

    Uhavenoclu - thank you...That is why he's my ex. I will never allow anyone to raise a hand to me again. That said, I wish that there were more options out there for battered women. Sometimes the abuser goes after the victim psychologically, as well, therefor making her believe she's stupid and can't fend for herself. In the above situation, I don't know if that applies. :( These stories always make me so sad.

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