Local News

Loved Ones Honor NCCU Student

Posted January 16, 2007 6:18 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2007 10:14 a.m. EST

— Students and staff at North Carolina Central University paused to remember a slain student who was shot to death outside her Durham apartment earlier this month.

“Our family circle has been broken,” said Rev. Michael Page, director of the school’s United Campus Christian Ministry.

For those who gathered to remember Denita Smith, their grief and disbelief were still close at hand.

“Murder breeds confusion and in trying to make sense of it, even if you find out the most intimate details, it leads you into a river of despair,” said Brandon Winford, a friend of Smith's.

Smith, a 25-year-old graduate student, had a talent for photography and a drive to succeed.

“I never knew a time Denita was not eager and enthusiastic about what she was doing,” Winford said.

The investigation into Smith’s death led Durham detectives to Greensboro, where Smith's fiance lives and works as a police officer. That's also where Durham police arrested Guilford Metro 911 operator Shannon Crawley, 27.

On Tuesday, prison officials transferred Crawley to the state Women's Prison in Raleigh. Officials said that happens when officers are concerned about an inmate's mental state.

Investigators say the case is ongoing. They aren't sure if the two women actually knew each other, but they believe Crawley planned the homicide. Police haven’t commented on a possible motive or details about the case since her arrest.

Smith's relatives also don't want to talk about the circumstances surrounding her death. An aunt told WRAL that the situation is too sensitive. Instead, friends and classmates have focused on how she lived her life.

“She definitely represented the fruits of the spirit: love, peace and kindness,” friend Lachantal Warthaw-Rickets said.

Smith worked for NCCU's campus newspaper, The Campus Echo. On Tuesday, the staffed announced it will name its newsroom "The Denita Smith Newsroom."