Exclusive: Durham murder victim's family shares story of anguish

DURHAM (WTVD) -- A family looking for answers sat down with ABC11 for an exclusive interview as they deal with the gruesome murder of their loved one.

Thirty-eight-year-old Trinity Smith's decapitated body was found last week in a Durham pond, and this week Durham police arrested his roommate, Andrew Scheper, and charged him with murder.

"Somebody can mutilate and kill the body, but they can't do anything to the soul," said Ruth Lipscomb, Smith's mother.

She and her daughter, Rebekah Smith-Callejas, described what happened when Durham investigators knocked on the door to tell them their son and big brother had been killed.

"When I knew they were coming, I knew. But I wasn't expecting what they told me," said Lipscomb.

"We asked how he died, they said he was stabbed and then they told us he had been decapitated and that's what really blew us -- my mom ran out crying. I was just devastated," said Smith-Callejas.

On Jan. 19, volunteers with a youth group from Lipscomb's church made a gruesome discovery. They were volunteering for a clean-up project for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service when they found a headless body in a pond near East Club Boulevard.

Smith-Callejas said an aunt pointed out that that pond was only about 100 yards from where Smith was living with 30-year-old Scheper.

Smith-Callejas said her brother had recently moved back home from Denver after more than a decade. He moved back to be closer to an ailing grandfather and to help his mother.

"It was quite the homecoming," said Smith-Callejas.

Excited to be home but eager to find his own place, Smith's family said he met Scheper at a job resource center and it came up in conversation that Scheper had a room for rent. So, the two agreed to move in together.

"I was like, 'How well do you know this guy' and he said 'Oh, he's OK mom. He's a little weird, but he's okay,'" said Lipscomb.

Smith's sister said the two had only lived together for five days before they stopped hearing from her brother. That was just before Thanksgiving. When Smith's mother hadn't heard from him in about five days, she made her way over to the home on East Club Boulevard. Instead of finding her son, she ran into Scheper.

"I said, 'Are you his roommate,' I said 'I'm looking for Trent' and he said 'He's not here' and then he said he was sorry," said Lipscomb. "He said 'I just had to ask him to leave. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.' Why are you apologizing? It still didn't register."

Smith's body was found on the Jan. 19. Sources close to the investigation told ABC11 that investigators found blood evidence inside Smith and Scheper's apartment. Scheper had disappeared but police caught up with him in Carrborro on Jan. 27.

He has since been arrested and charged with Smith's murder.

Now that a suspect is behind bars, Smith's family is left looking at photos. They are remembering the man they describe as loving and beautiful.

"Trent was just always, he always had tons of friends. We were just looking at the year books. He was homecoming king. He was most athletic, most attractive, most well dressed, always scored off the charts. Just a great overall person," said Smith-Callejas, "a good big brother, very protective, affectionate. I'm almost 33 and I've never had a single fight with him ever."

Those memories are now mixed with anguish and horror.

"That does haunt me, what happened in that apartment," said Lipscomb, "I just want him to get what he deserves for what he did. I want him to pay."

A memorial service for Smith will be held at Graystone Church on Hillsborough Road in Durham on Feb. 7 at 11 a.m.

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