Local News

Suspect in NCCU student's death testifies in own defense

Posted February 18, 2010 3:27 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2010 6:52 p.m. EST

— The woman accused of killing a North Carolina Central University graduate student more than three years ago stuck to her story Thursday that her former boyfriend pulled the trigger and provided recordings of phone conversations to back it up.

Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 28, of Greensboro, is charged with murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, death of Denita Monique Smith. Closing arguments in the trial are set for Friday after Crawley's testimony highlighted the defense's case.

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.

Prosecutors have argued that Crawley stalked Smith in a jealous rage because she had a previous relationship with Jermeir Stroud, a Greensboro police officer engaged to Smith.

Stroud testified last week 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.

Crawley testified Thursday that Stroud stalked her after the abortion, calling her repeatedly at her job as a Guilford Metro 911 dispatcher and following her when she was driving.

She said she was fearful of him and said often did what he said only to protect her children from him.

The day before Smith was killed, Crawley said, Stroud drove her to Durham, and they returned the following morning. During the second trip, she said, Stroud got out of the SUV, and she heard a brief argument followed by a gunshot.

When Stroud ran back to the SUV, she said, he began to back out before jumping into the back seat and ordering her to drive.

"I didn't know what he had done, and I didn't know what he was going to do to me," she said.

The story mirrors one she gave to Durham police investigators during a May 2007 interview. A videotape of that interview was played for jurors Wednesday.

During her testimony Thursday, Crawley played recordings of what she said were phone conversations between her and Stroud.

"You need to tell the truth. You know you did it. I am charged with murder for something I didn't do," Crawley said in one recording.

A man replied in a whisper, "I know. I'm sorry. I can't say I did the shooting. That would mean life in prison."

Prosecutors challenged Crawley on why she did not immediately go to police to tell officers what she knew.

"And you are trying to tell the jury that you had no idea what just happened there?" Durham County Chief Assistant District Attorney David Saacks asked.

"I didn't see anyone," Crawley replied.