Local News

UNC professor dies after Chapel Hill mugging

Posted July 24
Updated July 25

— 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.


This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • edanderson369 Jul 25, 12:31 p.m.

    To those who say this is not a parent's problem - you are wrong! It is OUR responsibility to... View More

    — Posted by krista21799


  • jurydoc Jul 25, 11:13 a.m.

    Mrsmucha.....I would venture a guess on who granted parole...either Carl Fox or Orlando... View More

    — Posted by censorbait

    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, 10:58 a.m.

    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.

  • dcatz Jul 25, 10:56 a.m.

    Actually Davis is 32 and has priors.
    http://webapps6.doc.state.nc.us/opi/viewoffender.do?method=vi... View More

    — Posted by Bealzebub

    Wrong guy. The Derick Davis in this incident is 23 and has a much longer list of priors.

    http://we... View More

    — Posted by lb27608

    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.

  • Desiderata Jul 25, 10:48 a.m.

    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!

  • Mon Account Jul 25, 10:43 a.m.

    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.

  • dcatz Jul 25, 10:42 a.m.

    KNOWSITALL - "Unfortunately, because of political correctness combined with a big dose of... View More

    — Posted by seankelly15

    Statistics don't lie :

  • lb27608 Jul 25, 10:37 a.m.

    Actually Davis is 32 and has priors.
    http://webapps6.doc.state.nc.us/opi/viewoffender.do?method=vi... View More

    — Posted by Bealzebub

    Wrong guy. The Derick Davis in this incident is 23 and has a much longer list of priors.


  • bill0 Jul 25, 10:34 a.m.

    Another waste of time, energy and money. They beat this man to death... they get NO mercy. The... View More

    — Posted by CherryDarling

    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, 10:33 a.m.

    I also was on the UNC faculty and took a noon walk almost every day without incident. However... View More

    — Posted by uncretprof

    And so the muggers would now have a guns as well.......do you really imagine they are going to... View More

    — Posted by Grand Union

    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...