Local News

Suspect in NCCU student's death blames fiance

Posted February 10, 2010 1:46 p.m. EST
Updated February 10, 2010 6:41 p.m. EST

— A Greensboro police officer killed a North Carolina Central University graduate student more than three years ago, the attorney for the woman accused of the crime said Wednesday as her trial began.

Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 28, of Greensboro, is charged with murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, shooting death of Denita Monique Smith.

Smith, 25, was shot in the head at Campus Crossing Apartments in Durham and fell down a stairwell to the sidewalk, where a maintenance man found her body, police said.

Police arrested Crawley, a dispatcher for Guilford Metro 911 in Greensboro, five days later.

Durham County Chief Assistant District Attorney David Saacks said in his opening statement that Crawley had a previous relationship with Jermeir Stroud, a Greensboro police officer engaged to Smith, and that she wouldn't let go.

Crawley drove to Smith's apartment complex the day before the shooting to scout it out and then returned early the next morning, where she ambushed Smith and shot her in the back of the head, Saacks told jurors.

The maintenance man saw Crawley pulling out of the complex parking lot after the shooting and said she was crying, Saacks said.

Defense attorney Scott Holmes put the same scene in a different light during his opening statement. He said Crawley feared for her safety around Stroud, whom he called manipulative and controlling.

Stroud and Crawley drove together to Durham the day before Smith was killed so they could discuss their relationship, Holmes said. The pair returned to the apartment complex the next morning, and Crawley heard Stroud arguing with someone as she sat in the SUV, the attorney told jurors.

After Crawley heard a gunshot, Stroud ran back to the SUV and jumped in the back, Holmes said. He was hiding there when the maintenance man stopped Crawley to ask about the gunshot, Holmes said.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens ruled Wednesday that Crawley's statements to police that she had an abortion before she and Stroud broke up and her claim that he raped her more than a year after Smith's death may be admitted as evidence in the trial.

Several members of Smith's family were in court Wednesday, wearing pins with her picture on them.