Local News

Huggins-Jones' mother: Travion Smith 'deserves to suffer and die'

Posted February 22, 2016
Updated February 23, 2016

— Jurors needed only about an hour to decide Monday to send Travion Smith to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Smith, 23, faced the possibility of the death penalty after his conviction last week in the May 2013 death of Melissa Huggins-Jones.

A Wake County jury has not sentenced anyone to death since 2007, and a decision to do so requires unanimous consensus by all 12 jurors.

In emotional moments following the verdict, Huggins-Jones' mother read a letter aloud to Smith.

"On May 13 and 14, 2013, you choose to do wrong," she said. "And now we have to live with the choices you made. This has left a hole in our hearts, but you cannot take away the many wonderful memories we all have of our Melissa."

Huggins-Jones' mother, Dawn Wallace, said that even though many details about her daughter's murder were revealed in court, she is still troubled by what she may never know about her daughter's very last moments.

"We have no way of knowing how much Melissa suffered before she died," she said.

Addressing Smith, Wallace said he deserved to suffer the same fate as her daughter.

"What you really deserve is to suffer and die in the same manner Melissa did," Wallace said. "You took our child away. Unlike you, Melissa loved people, always wanting to help others."

Huggins-Jones' father then spoke, voicing his surprise at the lack of emotion shown by Smith during the sentencing. Both were pleased to know that Smith will "never be released back into society again."

Smith’s sister, Kristina Love, said she is thankful that her brother's life was spared.

"The only thing I can guarantee is that moving forward, those who love and care for him will continue to motivate him to be the best he can be and make the correct decisions to better his future," she said.

In arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors said that none of the mitigating factors in the case, which mostly relate to Smith's troubled past, outweigh the aggravating factors.

"It is your duty to return a death penalty verdict in this case as you promised to do so," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said. "(Smith) stabbed her in the cheek, ear. He tore her nose off and busted her teeth out."

Waller focused on the fact that Huggins-Jones' then 8-year-old daughter, Hannah Olivia Jones, was sleeping down the hall.

"(Huggins-Jones) knew she was going to die, and she was not able to do a thing to help herself or Hannah," Waller said. "(Huggins-Jones) didn't have a choice that night. (Smith) took that choice away from her. He took life away from her."

Defense attorneys argued that the death penalty is reserved for the worst offenders, and that Smith is not one of them.

"Smith is guilty of first-degree murder. He is responsible for first-degree murder," defense attorney Phoebe Dee said. "He will be sentenced for first-degree murder. He will die in prison."

"The death penalty is not appropriate for every case of first-degree murder. It is reserved for the worst of the worst," defense attorney Jonathan Broun said.

Dee and Broun say Smith, whose childhood was marred by neglect and abuse, deserved life in prison.

"(Smith) will be punished for the rest of his life because of what happened, but his history before what happened does not show he is incapable of redemption," Broun said.

Following the sentencing, Broun said he felt that the jurors decision may be sending a message about the way the public views the death penalty as a punishment.

"I think that we're hopefully beginning to learn in Wake County and in other parts of the state that we can punish people harshly and severely for first-degree murder without using the death penalty," he said.

After Smith was convicted of the crime, jurors heard hours of testimony Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from family and friends of both Smith and Huggins-Jones.

The 30-year-old mother of two was new to the Triangle, having divorced and moved from Tennessee to an apartment complex off Six Forks Road prior to the crime. Hannah Jones moved to Raleigh with her mother. Her son had stayed behind with his father in Tennessee to finish the school year.

On 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.


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  • Karen Grigg Apr 18, 2016
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    Until people can assure me that we will never again mistakenly put an innocent person to death, and that the death penalty will be evenly sought out across different populations, I can't even enter the debate. This is not mutually exclusive from caring about the victims of crimes. I know I could never be a defense attorney. But there are too many documented cases of innocent people being executed, and too much data suggesting that death penalty is more likely to be sought for people of color, even for the same crimes. I personally think that letting someone rot in prison with no opportunity for parole is a pretty meaningful punishment. I'd rather be dead, personally.

  • Fanny Chmelar Mar 1, 2016
    user avatar

    If she holds on to that hate, it'll eat her to death.
    It happened. To get past it, forgive him then forget all about him and focus on family, friendships and good memories.

  • Amy Whaley Feb 23, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    lol as if the Pope is infallible. There is also a big difference between being Baptist and being a Christian. Some Baptist are Christian and some aren't.

  • Ben Hill Feb 23, 2016
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    A more important question is what about the 100,000s of people murdered every year in the US alone? Why is it that so many people like yourself can overlook them to fixate on the few that may have gotten mixed in with the mass of bad people? Perhaps as an ex-baptist turned atheist your time could be better served worrying about the rights of ALL innocent people instead of advocating for the rights of convicted murderers since maybe a few of them may actually be innocent. Take it from an ex - university town inhabitant turned critical thinker.

  • Mike Morin Feb 23, 2016
    user avatar

    Another weak-minded jury falling for the old "bad childhood" argument. The horror inflicted upon this women is unimaginable and this vermin should have been executed for it. Hopefully there is a shiv waiting for him in prison.

  • John Wells Feb 23, 2016
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    What part of "put to death" does the Pope have a problem understanding? Seems the Pope has overruled all these translations to say what his political correctness wants!

    New International Version
    "'Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.

    New Living Translation
    "Anyone who takes another person's life must be put to death.

    English Standard Version
    “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.

    New American Standard Bible
    'If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.

    King James Bible
    And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.

    Holman Christian Standard Bible
    If a man kills anyone, he must be put to death.

    International Standard Version "If a man beats a human being to death, he is certainly to be executed,

    NET Bible "'If a man beats any person to death, he must be put to death.

    GOD'S WORD® Translation "Whoever kills another person must be put to death.

  • Dale Xavier Feb 23, 2016
    user avatar

    I have a question. Every survey and study out there shows that the more religious a state, the more they support the death penalty. Why is that? Will your 'god" not give justice in the afterworld? What of the 100's of innocent people executed just in the 20th century on death row? Better to kill them all than let one guilty one get away?

  • Dale Xavier Feb 23, 2016
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    The Pope recently said, that the death penalty goes against the 10 commandments and Christ's teachings. No wiggle room for Southern evangelicals love of the death penalty, old time lynchings and generally mean spirited behavior. Very happy that I am an EX-Baptist turned atheist.

  • John Wells Feb 23, 2016
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    You have no idea what you're talking about. Some think of the OT as God V1.0 and the NT as God V2.0. Jesus is God (incarnate). What God said, Jesus said. What Jesus said, God said. Jesus fulfilled much of the OT laws so they no longer apply. Your comments are comical and ignorant.

  • John Wells Feb 23, 2016
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    That's Levitical code. You show your ignorance of the law as given to Moses, what applies today and why, and the purpose of those "weird laws." Stay in your realm of expertise and you'll do just fine.