Local News

Despite arrests, North Hills community still rattled after murder

Posted May 23, 2013 6:24 p.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2013 5:28 a.m. EDT

Melissa Huggins-Jones, photo from Facebook

— Despite the arrests of three people suspected in the slaying of a woman in her apartment last week, those who live and work in the North Hills area of Raleigh say they are still rattled by what appears to be a random crime motivated by burglary.

Melissa Dawn Huggins-Jones, 30, was found dead from a blunt force trauma injury in her home at Allister North Hills Apartments on May 14 after her 8-year-old daughter sought help from a construction crew working in the complex.

Investigators said they linked the crime to other property crimes in the area and that it appears the suspects – Ronald Lee Anthony Jr., 23, Sarah Rene Redden, 18, and Travion Devonte Smith, 20 – made unforced entry into Huggins-Jones' home.

Random homicides are rare in Wake County, according to Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, and that's why those with ties to the North Hills area say the arrests aren't an end to concerns about crime there.

"You just never know, and it is scary," said Paula Pacheco, who works in the area. "They made the arrests, but it doesn't make it easier."

Although they haven't commented on the property crimes, police reports indicate that four people reported car break-ins in the area on the morning of May 14. The victims of those crimes said they happened in the parking garage of a nearby condominium complex around the corner from Allister North Hills.

Over the past two weeks, there have been seven property crimes reported within a one-mile radius of the crime scene. Since January, there have been 22, and last year, there were 62.

"It looks like a safe neighborhood, and you think it's never going to happen," Pacheco said. "But there is no safe neighborhood, and when I heard about (the murder), it hit home for me."

Police stress that's why residents in the area, as well across the city, should always be vigilant about security in their homes.

The reminder of the crime against Huggins-Jones was still on the minds of neighbors and visitors Thursday, as Wake County prosecutors visited the crime scene as part of the investigation.

"The lady had just moved here," said Bill Baranick. "She was trying to start a new life, and it just breaks everybody's heart."

Huggins-Jones had moved to Raleigh two weeks earlier from Cleveland, Tenn., for a new job and a fresh start. She was originally from Elizabethtown in Bladen County.

She would have turned 31 on Tuesday.