Man gets life in prison for 2013 slaying at North Hills apartment complex
Posted September 8, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — One of three suspects charged in the 2013 brutal slaying of a woman in her North Hills apartment was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole.
Ronald Lee Anthony pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the beating and stabbing death of Melissa Huggins-Jones, whose family and friends packed the hearing Tuesday in Wake County Superior Court.
"The last two years of my life have been the hardest. Melissa was my only daughter, and we were extremely close" her mother, Dawn Wallace, said in court. "You took away my daughter and my grandchildren's mother, but you cannot take away the wonderful memories we have."
Huggins-Jones, 30, had recently divorced and moved from Tennessee to the apartment complex off Six Forks Road in Raleigh, where 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, savage 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 the suspects.
Anthony, 25, was charged May 22, 2013, along with Travion Devonte Smith, 22, of Raleigh, and Sarah Rene Redden, 20, of Wake Forest. All three were indicted a few days later.
Redden has agreed to testify against her two co-defendants.
Prosecutors said the three suspects had been breaking into cars in the area and that Redden had served as a lookout at a different apartment complex. Redden's defense attorney, Rosemary Godwin, said Redden wasn't inside the apartment when Huggins-Jones was killed.
Redden told investigators that Smith and Anthony killed the woman because she woke up and could identify them.
"Travion said the woman shouldn't have screamed," Redden told police.
Huggins-Jones' family members described her as a loving, devoted mother who put faith and family first. She was a member of First Baptist Church, sold candles to raise money for charities and encouraged others in their endeavors.
She chose the apartment complex because of the nearby schools and because she felt safe there, they said.
"The loss of Melissa, my beautiful, precious daughter, has damaged my heart, and I will never be the same again," her father, Kenneth Huggins, said through tears. He said unlike the suspects, his daughter contributed to society.
Her stepmother, Barbara Huggins, read a letter in court from Hannah: "My mother was killed when I was 8 years old. I miss my mother. My mother will never get to see me grow up, graduate high school and have kids."