Trial continues in NCCU student death

Denita Smith, 25, NCCU graduate student who was murdered.

February 11, 2010 8:41:54 PM PST
Testimony continued Thursday in the shooting death of a NC Central student named Denita Smith.Smith's fiancé, a Greensboro police officer, took the stand Thursday admitting that he was having an affair with the accused murderer Shannon Crawley, but he denied that he had killed his fiancé.

Denita Smith was found shot to death outside her apartment in January 2007.

That day, Jermeir Stroud - Smith's fiancé - says he went to work and then home.

He admits embarrassment over dating both women at the same time, but says he's no killer.

Stroud told the jury he was suspicious of Crawley after learning police were looking for someone driving a vehicle similar to her SUV. So he called Durham investigator Jack Cates.

"He said do you have a crazy ex-girlfriend," Stroud said, "Someone who'd want to do something like this? I said, yes."

In an attempt to discredit Stroud, Crawley's attorneys pointed to police notes that suggested that conversation went another way.

"According to his handwritten notes he says Stroud said no to his first question," Cates said. "Then when he asked whether he knew anyone matching the vehicle, he said yes."

For now, the case is focused on the embattled fiancé, a Greensboro police officer who describes his relationship with Crawley as friendship that turned sexual.

Stroud claims Crawley never recovered emotionally from a terminated pregnancy months before the murder.

She accused him of rape, more than a year after Smith's death, another claim he denies.

It's a love triangle that left investigators with some doubts.

"At that particular time we didn't know if he was involved or not, we didn't want to tip our hand," Cates said. "We didn't know his position."

No testimony has linked Crawley to the crime scene.

A maintenance worker recalls hearing what sounded like gun shots and then seeing woman crying hysterically, but failed to identify Crawley. The worker testified to only seeing an unidentified woman inside her car that morning. The defense contends Stroud is the real killer, jumping into his lover's SUV after the shooting and hiding in the back seat.

The trial will continue Friday.

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