Local News

Witnesses: Travion Smith was disrespectful, confrontational

Posted February 19, 2016 12:32 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2016 1:57 p.m. EST

— Travion Smith exhibited a pattern of probation violations, interaction with gang members and a tense relationship with his father that led up to the 2013 murder of a woman in Raleigh, according to his probation officer.

The state’s witnesses on Friday described Smith as disrespectful while on probation and confrontational with both officials and other inmates while in jail in 2015. Smith was found guilty on Tuesday of the murder of 30-year-old Melissa Huggins-Jones in May 2013.

Smith is awaiting a jury decision on whether or not he will get the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A Wake County jury has not handed down a death sentence since 2007. A decision to sentence a person to death requires a unanimous decision by all 12 jurors.

Mark Schellhorn said at Smith’s sentencing hearing that he was the probation and parole officer who supervised Smith in 2013 after he was released from prison for possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Before Huggins-Jones’ murder, Smith admitted to being in a gang, Schellhorn said.

“(Smith) was pretty upfront about his membership (in the gang),” Schellhorn said.

Smith’s father, Michael Clark, allowed Smith to live with him while he was on probation. Smith’s continued interaction with gang members, though, and the questioned paternity of a child in his care culminated in Clark’s decision to kick Smith out of the house in April of that year, Schellhorn said. Schellhorn said he then gave Smith a few hours to find a new place to live, but he didn’t hear back from him.

When the officer called the company that monitored Smith’s electronic house arrest anklet, the company said the unit had died. Schellhorn was not able to locate Smith on his own, so a warrant was issued for his arrest.

While in jail in 2015, a Wake County Detention Center official said Smith was openly disrespectful of her in front of other inmates, mocking her name and refusing orders to move back into his room. She said she used pepper spray on Smith once to try to force him to comply.

Dan Cil, another officer at the Wake County Detention Center, said Smith got into a heated altercation with another inmate that resulted in Smith being placed under lockdown for 24 hours.

The state finished presenting evidence shortly after noon on Friday.

Huggins-Jones was new to the Triangle, having divorced and moved from Tennessee to an apartment complex off Six Forks Road, in the North Hills area with her then-8-year-old daughter, Hannah Olivia Jones. Her son had stayed behind with his father in Tennessee to finish the school year.

On the morning of May 14, 2013, Hannah wandered out of the apartment and approached a nearby construction crew, asking for help. A construction worker followed the girl back into the apartment and found Huggins-Jones dead in her bed, covered in blood.