Local News

UNC professor dies after Chapel Hill mugging

Posted July 24, 2014
Updated July 25, 2014

— A professor at the University of North Carolina died Thursday morning after being mugged on a Chapel Hill street during a lunchtime walk Wednesday, police said.

Feng Liu, 59, of Durham, a research professor in UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy, was assaulted and robbed at about 1 p.m. Wednesday in a residential area near the intersection of West University Drive and Ransom Street, police said.

"The whole school has been in shock," said Russell Mumper, vice dean of the pharmacy school. "He was beloved. He was a member of a large family of highly respected scientists."

Derick Davis II, 23, of Scots Pine Crossing in Durham, and Troy Arrington Jr., 27, of Johnson Street in Chapel Hill, were arrested overnight in connection with the incident and were charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.

Davis also is charged with misdemeanor possession of stolen goods. Both men were being held without bond Friday in the Orange County jail.

"It’s just shocking the way this happened and that it was so close to the university," Mumper said. "Many faculty, students and staff enjoy a walk after lunch. Our understanding is that he was doing what he’s done many days – walking around campus community – and then something happened."

Liu received his undergraduate and master's degrees in pharmaceutics science at Shenyang Pharmaceutical University in China and his doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, according to UNC's website. He has worked at UNC for 10 years in the areas of genetics and drug delivery.

Mumper said Liu was conducting cancer research, leading a team of graduate students on projects funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"He was a very outgoing person, very social and a highly respected scientist," Mumper said. "He was truly a scholar and a great colleague."

Counselors were available on campus to help UNC students and faculty cope with the attack on Liu and his death.

"I am heartbroken over this horrible tragedy," Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. "I want to assure you that safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors on Carolina’s campus and in the surrounding community is my highest priority."

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt also expressed horror over the fatal mugging.

"A safe and secure environment is fundamental to our quality of life in Chapel Hill, and as a community, we must not tolerate such senseless violence," Kleinschmidt said in a statement.


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  • Edward Anderson Jul 25, 2014
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  • jurydoc Jul 25, 2014

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    Sorry, but judges have nothing to do with granting parole. If a person was sentenced back when parole was an option (doubtful truly for these guys are too young and NC did away with true parole) it is the parole board that grants paroles.

  • I Have a Discernible Chin Jul 25, 2014

    People seem to forget these murders after a while. If you go back through the last 20 years in Chapel Hill and recall all of these it becomes more apparent that there's a very serious, real threat to safety. When you take one of these murders and look at it as an isolated incident it's easier to convince yourself and easier for law enforcement and society to convince you that you're safe. Do some internet searches for murders and robberies in Chapel Hill you'll see what a serious problem it is. What would it take to end it? It looks like they didn't use a gun, so not gun control. The police can't do anything. They can't just go arrest two guys for walking down the street. The prison system won't do anything. Your personal safety is up to you. You can keep telling yourself you're safe if you want to or you can do something about it. Otherwise you're relying on chance that you don't end up dead in the streets, literally, of Chapel Hill. Unfortunate and inconvenient but fact.

  • Brian Hill Jul 25, 2014
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    Good lord, he has a list of B&E charges longer than my college transcript. Only 1 year for 24 felony charges? The judge who came up with that sentence should be arrested for depraved indifference murder.

    Dr. Liu was working on treating cancer, which could help billions. These two pieces of human waste, on the other and, have contributed nothing useful to society. If found guilty, both of these pieces of trash should be executed post haste.

  • Mariann Byknish Jul 25, 2014
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    I am sickened by this crime ! I believe it is time to forgo a long trial and prison sentence. When such crimes occur find the perp. QUICKLY have a court hearing, and then death sentence! We have to show that we are not going to tolerate such acts towards mankind. Hanging, firing squad, just like the old days, . QUICK JUSTICE! Tired of my tax dollars paying for keeping alive killers..NO SYMPATHY! Prayers for the family and friends who lost a loved one!

  • Fanny Chmelar Jul 25, 2014
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    I've always been shocked at the number of violent crimes in that area. From the shootings in the 90's through Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar and Eve Carter and how Feng Liu.

    What is wrong with this town? It's supposed to be a lovely place to live, work, and get educated... but there's still this violent streak running through it.

    Pointless. Sad. What a tremendous loss at the hands of worthless people.

  • Brian Hill Jul 25, 2014
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    Statistics don't lie :

  • Lee Bennett Jul 25, 2014
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    Wrong guy. The Derick Davis in this incident is 23 and has a much longer list of priors.


  • bill0 Jul 25, 2014

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    You might want to look up the law. They are charged with 1st degree murder. That is mandatory life in prison unless they go for the death penalty.

    And of course, criminals everywhere always have a shot of getting away with their crimes. That is just how crime works. We're currently keeping more people in jail than ever, so obviously a lot are getting caught and given pretty harsh sentences.

  • UNC006 Jul 25, 2014

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    The right to own a gun to protect one's self, is a 100% legal- it's amazing that a tragic beating death gets politicized...