Local News

Police Search for Possible Witness to Student's Slaying

Posted January 5, 2007 11:25 a.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2007 11:01 p.m. EST

— A North Carolina Central University graduate student who was found dead Thursday in an off-campus apartment complex had been shot, police said Friday.

A maintenance worker found the body of Denita Monique Smith of Charlotte at the bottom of a stairwell in the Campus Crossings Apartments on East Cornwallis Road, police said.

Police are looking for black female operating a burgundy Ford Explorer that was seen leaving the area around 8:30 a.m. Thursday. She isn't considered a suspect in the case at this time, police said.

"We need to speak to her. We believe that she may have some information which will allow us to resolve this case," said Cpl. David Addison of the Durham Police Department.

Officers responded to a report of gunshots fired near the apartment complex at about 8 a.m. Thursday, but didn't find anything, police said.

Police said they have interviewed more than a dozen people in the case, although they declined to say if Smith's roommate was one of those questioned.

Smith was a graduate student majoring in mass communications who worked at the campus newspaper and was viewed by many at N.C. Central as a star student. She was engaged to a Greensboro police officer.

"It's an understatement to say that she is going to be missed," said Lovemore Masakadza, a former editor of the campus newspaper. "I don't know which words I can use to describe how she's going to be missed."

NCCU Police Chief Willie Williams said the university would increase security over the next few days to help calm any fears in the community. Patrols will expand from 12 hours a day to round-the-clock, he said, and visitors to the apartment complex are being asked to present identification.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Durham Police Department at 919-560-4440 or Durham CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200.