Local News

Suspect in NCCU student's death says she feared for her children

Posted February 17, 2010 1:15 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2010 4:39 p.m. EST

— The woman accused of killing a North Carolina Central University graduate student more than three years ago told police that her former boyfriend pulled the trigger and threatened her children if she didn't accompany him.

Prosecutors played a videotape of a May 2007 police interview of Shannon Elizabeth Crawley as they wrapped up their case against her.

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

The defense is expected to start presenting its case Thursday.

Smith, 25, was shot once in the back of the head and fell down a stairwell at Campus Crossing Apartments in Durham, police said. A maintenance man found her body on a sidewalk.

As the trial began last week, Crawley's attorney said Smith's fiance, Jermeir Stroud, was the killer, calling him manipulative and controlling and saying Crawley followed him out of fear.

Stroud, a Greensboro police officer, testified that he dated both women at the same time but broke up with Crawley shortly after she became pregnant and had an abortion. Smith never knew about his other relationship, but Crawley did, he said.

Prosecutors have argued that Crawley stalked Smith in a jealous rage because she had a previous relationship with Stroud.

During her police interview four months after her arrest, Crawley told investigators that Stroud didn't want her to have an abortion and even asked her to marry him. He became despondent after she rejected him, and he tried to commit suicide, she said.

Crawley, a former Guilford Metro 911 dispatcher, told police that Stroud would repeatedly call her at work and stare at her in the hallway. She was so fearful of him that she bought a gun but then threw it away because she was afraid to have it around, she said.

The day before Smith was killed, she said, Stroud forced her to drive to Durham, and they returned the following day. On the second trip, she said, he got out at an apartment complex and was gone for several minutes before returning, ordering her to get into the driver's seat of an SUV and hiding in the back.

Crawley told investigators that Stroud had forced her to go places with him before. On the day Smith was killed, she said, he told her he would kill her children if she didn't go with him.

"He said, 'Either your children die, or you die for your children,'" she said in the videotaped interview.

Her fear prevented her from contacting police before her arrest, she said.

”I’d do absolutely anything for them. I’d protect them at any cost. He knew that," she said.

“I don’t know what I did to make him do this to me. I don’t what she did that he thinks was so horrible that he had to kill her. I don’t know. All I know is I didn’t do anything to her,” Crawley told police.

"I didn't know her. I didn't know where she lived. I didn't know anything about her," she said.

After jurors finished watching the tape, Crawley's attorney, Scott Holmes, grilled Shawn Pace, an investigator with the Durham Police Department, about why Stroud was never a suspect in Smith's death.

"Is it fair to say, in your investigation, other than his word he didn’t do it, (that Stroud) did not have a hard alibi that made it impossible for him to have done this?" Holmes asked.

"I cannot (agree) nor disagree,” Pate responded, adding that police never searched Stroud's car or home.