Suspect in North Hills murder looks to escape death penalty
Posted November 9, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A man accused in the brutal 2013 slaying of a woman in her North Hills apartment was in court Monday morning as his attorneys asked a judge to take the death penalty off the table.
Travion Devonte Smith, 22, of Raleigh, is one of three people charged in the beating and stabbing death of Melissa Huggins-Jones.
Huggins-Jones, 30, had recently divorced and moved from Tennessee to the apartment complex off Six Forks Road in Raleigh, where she started a new job and a new life caring for her 8-year-old daughter, Hannah Olivia Jones. Her son had stayed behind with his father in Tennessee to finish the school year.
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.
An autopsy determined she died from repeated blows to her head and neck.
A laptop stolen from the apartment directly below Huggins-Jones’ turned up in Wake Forest, and investigators were able to use DNA evidence to link the computer to three suspects.
Smith, Ronald Lee Anthony, 25, and Sarah Rene Redden, 20, of Wake Forest, were charged in the case.
Smith is set to go on trial the first week of January, but his attorneys said the state withheld critical information in his case.
Redden, the getaway driver, originally said both Smith and Anthony were involved, but later recanted, saying Anthony was primarily responsible and not Smith.
Melvin Brown, an inmate who was housed with Smith, also shared similar information, but defense attorneys said the state did not disclose the details until recently.
"She is now saying it is Ronald Anthony, and that Ronald Anthony alone killed Ms. Huggins-Jones," said Jonathan Broun, a defense attorney. "Ronald told her he stabbed (Huggins-Jones) to death. (Smith) did not personally hit, stab or hurt Ms. Huggins-Jones. She also said she has no indication that Travion went into Ms. Huggins-Jones' bedroom or was present when (Anthony) killed her."
In September, Anthony pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a life sentence.
Redden has agreed to testify against her two co-defendants.