RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The daughter of a Raleigh woman who was brutally murdered at her North Hills apartment in May 2013 testified during the sentencing phase of the trial Wednesday morning.
A Wake County jury must decide whether 23-year-old Travion Smith will face the death penalty. Smith was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the death of Melissa Huggins-Jones.
Huggins-Jones’ daughter Hannah, who was only 8 years old at the time of her mother’s murder, testified Wednesday morning.
The 10-year-old told the jury that she had to sleep with a ceiling fan that night because it was noisy. She said she woke up to a scream, but didn’t know what it was and went back to sleep.
Hannah then told the court that she was the one who found her mom the next morning. She said she left the apartment to get help from nearby construction workers who then called 911.
Hannah recalled her mom as being funny, giving and very loving to anyone she knew.
“I miss my mom,” Hannah said Wednesday. “I won’t be able to have her at my wedding.”
Smith is one of three people charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Huggins-Jones. Ronald Anthony and Sarah Redden were also charged in the case.
Anthony pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence. Sarah Redden has admitted she was the get-away driver after the killing of Huggins-Jones.
If Smith is sentenced to death, it’s very unlikely the sentence will be carried out anytime soon. Currently, 152 inmates sit on death row, but the state hasn’t executed anyone since Samuel Flippen in 2006.
Men on death row are housed at Central Prison. The three women on death row are housed at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women.
The death penalty has been in limbo in our state for several years, due to ongoing litigation.
Nation-wide controversy led to inmates filing 8th amendment lawsuits about the effectiveness of lethal injection.
In 2007, the state Medical Board threatened to punish doctors who participated in executions, even though it was required by law. The state supreme court overturned that in 2009.
The passing of the Racial Justice Act got four inmates removed from death row and tied up several other cases in court.
For now, there are still injunctions in place that have stopped any new executions from being scheduled. WNCN also looked at the cost for death row compared to a maximum security inmate, which are about the same: $95/day.
Since the last execution in 2006, 17 people have received the death penalty.