Local News

Witnesses around north Raleigh see co-defendants before murder

Posted February 5, 2016

— The man on trial for the May 2013 murder of a mother at her North Hills apartment spent the bulk of the afternoon with his two co-defendants, drawing the attention of several witnesses who testified on Friday.

On the fourth day of the trail, witnesses said 23-year-old Travion Smith spent much of May 13 roaming around north Raleigh leading up to what the state said was a burglary spree that ended in the murder of 30-year-old Melissa Huggins-Jones. Smith could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Smith and co-defendant Sarah Redden—who testified on Thursday against Smith—were seen early in the afternoon applying for a job at the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop at North Hills mall, said Amy Radley, who at the time was the store’s general manager. Radley said the pair was arguing about the back of the application, which asked about criminal records.

“They were saying, ‘No, you have to put that (on the criminal record),’” Radley said.

Radley, who had not yet started her shift, said Smith and Redden were causing a disruption and she asked them to leave. Radley then went to the neighboring Starbucks to get a coffee before her shift began.

While Radley talked with a Starbucks employee, she said she saw Smith and Redden outside, and one of them pointed at her. Ronald Lee Anthony, a third co-defendant who pleaded guilty in 2015 to first-degree murder in the same case, then entered the Starbucks and got into an argument with Radley, she said.

The trio was escorted off the North Hills property by a security officer who was called over by Radley.

Witnesses then saw Smith, Redden and Anthony at a Marijuana Anonymous meeting and, later, the Bonefish Grill at North Hills, less than half a mile from the Ben & Jerry’s. Sarah Melvin was working as a server that night at the restaurant, and she said on Friday that she saw all three sitting in the patio area on the night of May 13.

Melvin said she was closing down the restaurant between 10:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. while Smith sat outside with Redden and Anthony. The unusual part of the interaction, she said, was when the three departed but left an odd assortment of items on the table, such as safety pins, push pins and golf tees. After talking with her manager, Melvin said she threw the items away.

Huggins-Jones had recently divorced and moved from Tennessee to an apartment complex off Six Forks Road. She started a new job and a new life caring for her 8-year-old daughter, Hannah Olivia Jones. Huggins-Jones’ 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.

Another witness prompted the judge to close the courtroom for security reasons, excluding everyone except for court personnel, the jury and witnesses.


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