Local News

Suspect in North Hills murder looks to escape death penalty

Posted November 9, 2015

— 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.


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  • Lamario Kelly Feb 3, 2016
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    How can we as Christians praise death...we are not God and I believe that only he can judge, yes what they did was the bottom of the bottom and is disgusting, but my beliefs state I will not judge a man and leave that for God. He should spend the rest of his life in jail and when he dies he can answer to the man upstairs. Probably receive harsh feedback, but those are my Christian beliefs

  • Tom Laurence Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Exactly! Give him what he deserves - death.

  • John Smith Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    Life in prison should not be an option. If you murder someone or take part in the murder of someone you should have the same fate. Prisons are over crowded already, speed up the process. Found Guilty? Take care of business THAT day.

  • Mark Colyer Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    what death penanlty?

  • Reggie Berryman Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    You was a big tough guy when you committed the crimes, now stand up and demand the Death Penalty in stead of acting like a little scared poink!

  • Robert Smith Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    Why not the death penalty?