Sister: Smith endured rough life full of abuse
Posted February 18, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The sentencing hearing for Travion Smith continued Thursday as defense attorneys worked to outline his rough life, marred by abuse, specifically by his father.
Smith, 23, could face the death penalty after he was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Melissa Huggins-Jones, a Raleigh mom who was killed in her North Hills apartment in May 2013.
On Thursday morning, Smith’s half-sister, Kristina Love, testified that she witnessed her father, Michael Clark, emotionally and physically abuse her brother on a regular basis.
"Physically - leaping on him, hitting him, punching him, throwing him...everything, in every way possible," Love said. "He treated (Smith) like he didn't really want him to be there in the first place, like he was more of a burden than a joy."
Love told the jury that Clark would often blame Smith for things she did, but through it all, Smith treated her "like an angel."
"(He was) so filled with joy to see me and to spend time with me," she said. "We exchanged the love that my father was not willing to give him."
Through tears, she detailed many times that she witnessed Smith waiting for his mother to arrive for a visit.
"She never came," Love said. "(Smith) was very emotional, very confused, and would say, 'What's wrong with me? Why doesn't she want a relationship with me?'"
Love said that, when she was 16, she was able to end her relationship with her father, but that Smith was not able to do the same. She also testified that Clark got very upset when she told him she would testify in this case.
"He did not want me to reveal who he is as a person, or who he was as a parent," she said.
Love's mother, Candy Albrecht, said she had a relationship with Smith when he was younger and said she felt guilty about not taking him away from his abusive father.
"Obviously, anybody would feel regret for something they didn't do if they knew they could have prevented someone from being hurt," Albrecht said.
She said she would often care for Smith because his mother was not around.
"(Smith) had asked me to be his mommy, if I would take care of him like I did with (Love)," Albrecht said.
Psychologist John Blackshear also took the stand for the defense. He detailed Smith's need for long-term treatment and intervention.
"We were basically treating cancer with an aspirin," Blackshear said. "His father said he couldn't afford (the proper treatment) financially."
On Thursday afternoon, a parade of teachers testified about how Smith was sad and impulsive as a child and young teenager. They said it seemed as if he wanted to learn and please them, but that he had a lot of obstacles.
"I always remember (Smith) seemed sad and lonely in his eyes, and he came in hungry sometimes," Jennifer Meyers, one of Smith's teachers, said. "We made sure to get him breakfast and food and sometimes clothing from the clothing room."'
Another one of Smith's teachers, Warren McDowell, said he was never aggressive or intimidating.
"(He) was very impulsive. I'm not sure he was able to see the consequences of his behavior a lot of times when he would do something," McDowell said.
The state asked the teachers about Smith's IEP, or Individualized Education Program, that showed Smith had been aggressive and fought with other students. The teachers did not remember those behaviors.
The defense finished its testimony Thursday afternoon. The state will get an opportunity to put on rebuttal witnesses Friday morning. Then the jury will decide if Smith will get the death penalty or spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A Wake County jury has not handed down a death sentence since 2007. A decision to sentence a person to death requires a unanimous decision by all 12 jurors.