Local News

Aberdeen man charged in ex-girlfriend's death

Posted August 22, 2012 11:04 p.m. EDT
Updated August 23, 2012 6:13 p.m. EDT

— The Moore County Sheriff's Office arrested a man Wednesday night after deputies found the body of his former girlfriend near a landfill outside Aberdeen, authorities said. 

Michael Jason Berger, 35, of 726 Kennedy Circle in Aberdeen, was charged with murder and is being held without bond in the Moore County jail.

Deputies responding to a tip found the body of Crystal Rae Smith, 33, in a wooded area near the entrance to the county landfill, off N.C. Highway 5 between Aberdeen and Pinehurst, authorities said.

Investigators said Smith could have been dead since Sunday. Her body was sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Kimberly Marshall, who rented a room in Berger's home, said Thursday that she was still in shock over the allegation against him.

"I still can't picture this," Marshall said. "From the time I've known him, I would have never thought any of this."

Smith moved to the house about a month ago, Marshall said. Berger and Smith had known each other for 15 to 20 years and had previously dated, she said.

Marshall said she went the beach last weekend, and Smith sent her some text messages Sunday night in which she said she feared Berger would kill her.

She said she called Berger Monday morning after seeing the messages, and he told her Smith was asleep. She said he later called back and said Smith had left him Sunday night, and he told Marshall not to come home.

"He said he was really stressed, you know, and he was just really upset and he was crying and said he just didn't want me to see him that way," she said.

"I just keep on picking up the phone, just wishing that she would just text me and say, you know, 'Hey, April fools' or something," she said.

State Division of Adult Correction records show that Berger has been serving 24 months on probation after being convicted in June of assault by strangulation and assault on a female. Authorities said Smith wasn't the victim of those crimes.