RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Raleigh mom who was brutally killed in May 2013 was remembered Tuesday as a devoted mother who loved her family, and God as the trial began for a man accused in her murder.
Melissa Huggins-Jones, 30, was found dead early on the morning of May 14, 2013 by her 8-year-old daughter in her apartment at 441 Allister Drive in Raleigh. Investigators said Huggins-Jones died from blunt force trauma, and the suspects tried to burglarize her home.
Three people were charged in the murder.
It took nearly a month for both sides to agree on 12 jurors that are willing to consider the death penalty in this case. Today those jurors heard opening statements in the case earlier Tuesday.
Nearly three years after she was found murdered, the man accused of killing Huggins-Jones is appearing before a jury.
Police say 23-year-old Travion Smith murdered the mom of two in her own bed. Huggins-Jones had recently moved to Raleigh with her daughter from Tennessee.
Dawn Wallace, the victim’s mother, spoke to the court about her daughter.
“She wanted everybody to know God, especially her children. If the church doors were open she did everything she could to have her children in church,” Wallace said.
Also, Tuesday, a construction worker described first seeing the dead mother after the victim’s young daughter discovered her mom lying blood-covered in bed and came out to ask him for help.
“She had blood all over her face, blood everywhere,” testified Robert Pittman. “I put two fingers on her wrist and there was no pulse and she was cold as a block of ice.”
During opening arguments Tuesday, prosecutors said Smith brutally beat and stabbed Huggins-Jones while her daughter was asleep next door.
On the morning of May 14, 2013, police say the then-8-year-old girl left the apartment, approached a construction crew and told them her mom was hurt.
Police say Smith had help in the killing from two people, Ronald Lee Anthony Jr. and Sarah Rene Redden.
Before opening arguments, Smith conceded that he and Redden had been breaking into cars the night the murder happened.
The prosecution says Smith and Anthony were both responsible for the murder.
“They were together before the murder, after the murder, and the State is going to prove to you they were together the night Melissa was killed,” said prosecutor Melanie Shekita.
Meanwhile, Smith’s defense attorney insists Smith is not to blame for the murder, and was manipulated by his friend Ronald Anthony.
“Ronald Anthony who is already serving a life sentence for the murder of Melissa Huggins-Jones is the one who is responsible for her death,” said Jonathan Broun, defense attorney.
Anthony pled guilty to first-degree murder in 2015 and is expected to testify against Smith.
Redden has also been charged in the case. Prosecutors say she served as the getaway driver while Anthony and Smith robbed the apartment complex where Huggins-Jones lived.
Redden has not been offered a plea deal and is also expected to testify.
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