Opening statements at trial in murder of Raleigh mom set for Tuesday morning

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Trial in murder of Raleigh mom begins
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Travion Smith in court

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Opening statements are expected Tuesday in the trial of one of the teenage suspects in the 2013 murder of a Raleigh mother.

Travion Devonte Smith is one of three people charged in the death of 30-year-old Melissa Huggins-Jones.

Huggins-Jones had just moved to Raleigh from Tennessee for a job when she was found beaten to death on May 14, 2013, at her apartment in Raleigh's North Hills community.

Details surrounding the night of Huggins-Jones' murder came to light last September when one of the suspects, Ronald Lee Anthony Jr., pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The judge sentenced Anthony to life in prison without parole. The plea deal spared him the death penalty.

During the hearing, the prosecutor said Anthony and one of his co-defendants took turns stabbing Huggins-Jones after they shimmied up onto the second-floor apartment's balcony and found an unlocked door.

However, during the start of Smith's two-day hearing in November, a defense attorney revealed in court that the most recent witness statements indicated that Anthony was the killer, and not Smith.

Authorities have said they believe Smith, Anthony, and Sarah Redden were breaking into cars in the neighborhood before breaking into Huggins-Jones' home.

Redden's attorney has said she wasn't in the apartment when Huggins-Jones was killed. She has agreed to testify against both men. Redden also faces charges in connection with the crime.

RELATED: 3 arrested in murder of north Raleigh mother

Smith's attorney has said Redden originally said both men took turns stabbing Huggins-Jones because she didn't want her boyfriend, Anthony, to take all the blame.

Huggins-Jones' 8-year-old daughter discovered her mother's body hours after the crime.

According to prosecutors, one of the suspects told investigators that the intruders would have killed the girl if she had awakened.

RELATED: Suspect pleads guilty to Raleigh mother's 2013 murder

In November, a judge refused to take the death penalty off the table for Smith. The trial could last a month or longer.

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