published Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

3 held in slaying of former Cleveland woman

Ronald Lee Anthony Jr.,30,  Sarah Rene Redden, 18,  and Travian Devonte Smith, 20. All three are facing murder charges and are in the Wake County Jail.
Ronald Lee Anthony Jr.,30, Sarah Rene Redden, 18, and Travian Devonte Smith, 20. All three are facing murder charges and are in the Wake County Jail.
Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina police say they've found no previous connections between a former Cleveland, Tenn., woman killed in her apartment and three people charged with murder.

Raleigh police detectives said Wednesday they've charged the suspects with killing Melissa Dawn Huggins-Jones. They said the cause of death was blunt force trauma.

The suspects are 23-year-old Ronald Lee Anthony Jr., 18-year-old Sarah Rene Redden and 20-year-old Travian Devonte Smith. All three are facing murder charges and are in the Wake County Jail.

Huggins-Jones had moved to Raleigh two weeks earlier from Cleveland, Tenn., to manage a new First Tennessee Bank branch and a fresh start after a divorce. She was originally from Elizabethtown in Bladen County, N.C.

Huggins-Jones' 8-year-old daughter found her mother covered in blood inside their new home and sought help from construction workers building apartments in the complex.

Raleigh police believe the suspects made an "unforced entry" into the apartment with burglary in mind. A police news release states a link was established between the slaying and "certain property crimes in the immediate area."

Raleigh's ABC-TV affiliate, abclocal.com, reported that Smith already was wanted for violating probation and house arrest on a previous conviction, and Anthony has a criminal record dating to 2008 with charges such as felony robbery with a dangerous weapon.

The CBS television affiliate, WRACL.com., reported the three had an initial court appearance Wednesday and were ordered held without bond pending a June 12 court hearing.

WRACL.com quoted Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby saying that most people are killed by someone they know.

"The random murders are few, but they're the ones that frighten us the most," Willoughby said.

"You expect people who engage in criminal activity to be at risk, but when you're at home in your own bed minding your business, going to work every day, you just don't expect to be placed at risk, and that's why it's frightening to all of us."

Friends of Huggins-Jones posted on a memorial Facebook page Wednesday that the suspects were caught on what would have been her 31st birthday.

The Associated Press and staff writer Judy Walton contributed to this report.

about Associated Press...

The Associated Press

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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