Local News

Pregnant, homeless woman found dead in suitcase had 'secret life,' boyfriend says

Posted February 11, 2021 6:37 p.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2021 12:15 a.m. EST

— Two people charged with killing a pregnant woman whose body was found in a suitcase in east Raleigh were ordered to be held without bond on Thursday.

Thomas Clayton Johnson, 37, and Emmalei Grace Trevathan, 24, were arrested during a traffic stop Wednesday afternoon. Both were charged with Smith's murder, murder of an unborn child and concealment of a body.

Brittany Smith, 28, was six months pregnant with a baby boy, according to arrest warrants. Deputies with the Wake County Sheriff's Office found Smith's body in a suitcase off Allen Drive, which is near the Neuse River, on Monday, four days after she had been reported missing.

"That woman was my heart and soul. She was my backbone. She was the answer to my question," said her boyfriend, Cody Page.

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said Smith was strangled, but he declined to disclose a possible motive for her killing.

Page said Smith was involved with drugs, and there were things in her life that she kept from him.

"She had a secret life," he said. "She wouldn't keep me informed. She was doing stuff that I didn't agree with."

Thomas Johnson, Emmalei Trevathan, Brittany Smith slaying

Page said he saw text messages between Smith and Johnson last week in which Johnson said he was going to pick Smith up. That was the last time Page saw her.

His heartbreak was only worsened when he was questioned in her death, and many people on social media pointed the finger at him.

"I love that woman from the bottom of my heart and would never harm that woman," he said. "I never laid a finger on that woman a day in my life."

Smith's family said the whole story has yet to come out.

Dale Williams had allowed the couple to live in a tent in some woods behind his house in Wendell since last summer, when they were rousted from a home where they were squatting.

The two used a space heater to stay warm inside the tent and went inside Williams' house to shower and do laundry.

Brittany Smith, missing woman

Williams said he hadn't slept much since Smith went missing.

"Last night was probably the worst," he said, noting that was after authorities identified the body found in the suitcase as Smith.

He said he doesn't recognize Johnson or Trevathan, but he hopes Smith gets justice.

"I just feel bad because it’s a very sad situation," he said.

Baker said there "could be additional suspects, but we’re pretty sure we’ve got the two we need."

Page, who is recovering from his own addiction, said processing the loss of Smith, whom he had been with for seven years, is unbearable.

"I actually feel physical pain because my other half is gone," he said. "I'll never be able to hug my baby again."

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