Jury Deliberating In N.C. Central Student Murder
The fate of a former Guilford County 911 dispatcher accused of killing a North Carolina Central student in "cold blood" is now in the hands of the jury. Attorneys wrapped up closing arguments around 1:30 this afternoon.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Shannon Crawley planned to kill Denita Smith, which would be first degree murder. Crawley is accused of shooting Smith right after 8:00 a.m. on January 4, 2007, outside of the student's apartment at the Campus Crossings complex in Durham.
"We lost a star," said Assistant District Attorney David Saaks as he started his closing argument Friday morning. "Right now Denita Smith should be a journalist covering this trial. She should be celebrating her second year of marriage."
Smith had been engaged for two months when she died. The defense is trying to prove her fiancée, Jermeir Jackson-Stroud, who is Crawley's former lover, killed her. Crawley lived just one block from Jackson-Stroud, who is a Greensboro police officer.
"She's been trying to set [him] up all along and now she's trying to do it again," Saaks said. "How much sense does this make to you? He could've found a lake somewhere or the ocean and gotten rid of her? Why does he do it outside of Denita's place, in broad daylight, in Durham?"
During this nine-day trial, the state has tried to prove the three were involved in a love triangle gone wrong and that Crawley drove from Greensboro to kill Smith. Crawley's defense attorney, C. Scott Holmes, said it just doesn't make sense.
"There's a lot of talk about love triangle. The state has not proved envy here. The state says Shannon envied Denita. She never even met her," Holmes said. "The state hasn't even proved that Shannon knew where this woman lives."
Holmes said there are too many holes in the state's case and that Durham Police were too quick to dismiss other suspects.
"In very important cases there's this tremendous pressure for police to make an arrest," Holmes said.
But prosecutors contend that Crawley's statements to investigators have changed several times during these last three years and that evidence puts her at the crime scene.
"This is a woman who is supposed to be terrified of guns," Saaks told the jury. "If you have never owned a gun - why is there gunshot residue on your driver's seat?"
Saaks said that gunshot residue in Crawley's car is just one piece of the evidence that ties her to the crime scene. He said cell phone records put her there. He also said she bought a gun from a co-worker months before but told a different story to investigators when they first interviewed her.
"The very first day this investigation gets to Greensboro - what does she say? 'I've never been to Durham. I've never had a gun,'" Saaks said. "Then how do you explain your cell phone pinging off a tower 8/10ths of a mile from this apartment complex."
Prosecutors never found the gun that killed Denita Smith. They believe Crawley ditched the gun and bullets in separate Dumpsters at a Greensboro mall.