Local News

Admitted lookout recalls events surrounding North Hills murder

Posted February 4, 2016 4:41 p.m. EST
Updated April 18, 2016 10:48 a.m. EDT

— Sarah Redden, one of the three people charged with first-degree murder in the 2013 death of Melissa Huggins-Jones, a mother who was killed in her North Hills apartment, took the stand Thursday to testify against one of her co-defendants.

Travion Smith, 23, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Huggins-Jones. A third co-defendant, Ronald Lee Anthony, pleaded guilty in 2015 to first-degree murder in the case and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Redden said during her testimony that she has no deal with the state to lower her charges or lessen her jail time, but that she wanted to tell the truth.

Redden admitted to being a lookout for Smith and former boyfriend Anthony on May 13, 2013, the night a burglary spree ended in Huggins-Jones' murder.

"I would stand by the street to see if anybody was coming out of the houses," Redden said.

She said that, after the two men walked around for a while checking for unlocked cars, they ended up near some apartments that were under construction.

Redden said the men left her at a vacant apartment on Allister Drive and told her to wait. When she went to look for them, she saw Smith on a second-floor apartment balcony.

"(Smith) was wiping off the rails...using his shirt," Redden said. "When I asked where (Anthony) was, (Smith) pointed back toward the apartment."

Redden said the three were picked up by a friend of Anthony's and ended up in a nearby parking lot, where the men rinsed their hands.

Later, Redden testified that Anthony displayed a knife with blood on it and that she noticed something on Smith's shirt.

"It looked to be specks of blood on his shirt," she said.

The three eventually ended up in a motel room, where she said Anthony and Smith were not acting like themselves.

"It was really unusually quiet," Redden said. "Then (Smith) asked (Anthony) 'Man, what the hell just happened?'"

Redden testified that she saw Smith open a backpack full of stolen goods, including a laptop and GPS systems.

Redden said Smith became nervous and was concerned about not being able to see his son.

Before Redden testified in front of the jury, she testified in front of the judge. Redden said Anthony admitted to her that he stabbed Huggins-Jones because she was screaming and he was trying to quiet her.

An autopsy determined that Huggins-Jones died from repeated blows to her head and neck.

In earlier testimony, police said they were able to track down Smith and Anthony by tracking a laptop computer stolen from Huggins-Jones' apartment's leasing office the night she was murdered. The orange Lenovo laptop was posted for sale on Craigslist.

Amber Alberts, another one of Anthony's girlfriends at the time of the murder, said that, while the photos posted on the ad were taken on her cellphone, she had nothing to do with the crime.

"I did not know what I was really getting myself into," she said.

Alberts testified that she first saw the stolen laptop while on a lunch break from her job at a Walmart in Wake Forest. She said she met Anthony and Smith at a restaurant nearby to grab some food.

"When I first went for break, they showed me they had two laptops," Alberts said. "He tried to give it to me, and I said I didn't want it. I didn't want any part in what it possibly could have been."

Alberts said Anthony and Smith stayed at her home in Oxford and that she later saw them with other items that she assumed were stolen, including cellphones, chargers and an iPod.

“I’m not dumb. Two people who don’t have a job aren’t going to have nice laptops,” she said.

When police later arrived to search her home, Alberts cooperated.

"(Officers) showed me pictures of the laptop and told me it was stolen and that it tied (Anthony and Smith) to a murder," Alberts said.

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.