Local News

Tears, concern flow at vigil for slain UNC professor

Posted July 30, 2014 10:19 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2014 5:18 a.m. EDT

— Hundreds gathered Wednesday outside the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill building where research professor Feng Liu worked to remember the scientist, one week after he was beaten to death during one of his regular walks.

The incident was a painful loss for Liu’s colleagues and created concern among the UNC community.

“I always thought UNC was such a quiet and wonderful and peaceful and safe place,” said J.B. Hu, who organized Wednesday’s gathering. “But after his fall, I had a second thought about that.”

Liu, 59, of Durham, was taking a lunchtime walk near the intersection of West University Drive and Ransom Street on July 23 when he was assaulted and robbed. He died of his injuries the next day.

Derick Davis II, 23, of Scots Pine Crossing in Durham, and Troy Arrington Jr., 27, of Johnson Street in Chapel Hill, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery. Davis also is charged with misdemeanor possession of stolen goods.

Authorities said "a landscape stone" was used to beat Liu about the head. Police said they have no reason to believe Liu was targeted by his attackers.

Both men were recently released from jail prior to Liu’s murder:

  • Davis was released from the Wake County jail on June 22 after serving three weeks on a shoplifting charge, according to the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
  • Arrington posted a $5,000 bond on July 2 after spending 10 months in the Durham County jail in connection with an August 2013 residential burglary in which a dog was stolen. He was wearing an electric monitor on his ankle when he was arrested.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt attended Wednesday’s vigil, in part, to calm fears.

"There is nothing more important than the safety of our campus and community and as we go forward, that too will part of everything we do," she said.

Those at Wednesday's vigil walked from the building where Liu worked to where he was killed, the same path he took last week.

Liu was a highly regarded and published cancer researcher. He was leading a team of graduate students on projects funded by the National Institutes of Health when he was killed.

Friends said Liu was too humbled to talk about his work.

"I hope all of us can pick up the slack a little bit and we can all be a little better in his memory," Folt said.

A second vigil is planned for Saturday at UNC’s Memorial Hall. 

Plans are in the works to create an endowment and scholarship in Liu's name.