Melissa Huggins-Jones , 30, was newly divorced and adjusting to life as a single mum.
She’d chosen the flat as a sanctuary to start again and was comforted knowing it was in a good part of town. But after just two weeks of living there, eight-year-old Hannah ran out onto the street barefoot and crying out, “My mum’s hurt.”
A concerned construction worker came to her aid, but when he walked into the flat, he was confronted with a truly savage scene.
Little Hannah had woken up to discover her mum had been stabbed and beaten to death in her bed. Just how had Melissa’s new beginning triggered her brutal end?
One of the construction workers checked her pulse but Melissa was cold to the touch. He dialled 911. “There’s blood everywhere, ma’am,” he stammered to the operator.
An autopsy revealed Melissa had received 18 blows to the face, neck and body with a knife and a blunt object. Somebody had killed the young mum as her daughter slept in the next room.
Officers later said they were haunted by the idea that Melissa had feared for her daughter’s safety as she fought off her attacker. Experts couldn’t say whether it had taken several minutes for Melissa to bleed to death, or several hours.
Police searched the home and found footprints. They worked out that Melissa’s attacker had managed to get in through an unlocked sliding door on the second-floor balcony. Melissa’s iPhone was missing – could she really have been killed for the sake of a phone?
On the night Melissa was killed, best mates Travion Smith, 22, Ronald Lee Anthony, 25, and Ronald’s ex Sarah Redden, 20, had been out together breaking into cars – but their crime was about to quickly escalate.
Pulling up to the flats where Melissa lived, Travion and Ronald got ready to break into the building, while Sarah acted as a getaway driver. The pair managed to climb up onto Melissa’s balcony and get into her house. When Melissa had woken up and screamed, Ronald and Travion silenced her for good.
Sarah watched them wash blood off their hands with water bottles. This was a burglary that had gone very wrong.
The flat below Melissa’s had also been broken into, and a stolen laptop led police to a nearby district where the killers lived.
All three were arrested. When questioned, Sarah placed the blame on the others.
“Travion said the woman shouldn’t have screamed,” she explained.
Melissa had died so she couldn’t identify them.
Ronald Lee Anthony pleaded guilty to first degree murder in order to avoid a possible death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. Former girlfriend Sarah testified against Ronald saying he was the ring leader and that she had loved him until he’d “turned nasty”.
Sarah testified against Travion and confirmed he’d broken in to rob the apartment, but added that Ronald was the ring leader who had manipulated them both. Travion claimed he wasn’t in the room when Ronald attacked Melissa, but the prosecution argued that he’d actually delivered one of the first fatal blows.
In April this year, Sarah Redden, now 21, pleaded guilty to accessory to first-degree murder. She was the lookout and as part of the deal, she also pleaded guilty to breaking and entering. She got 54-77 months and was given credit for time served.
The crime was utterly senseless. That fateful night, they thought they were robbing Melissa of an iPhone, but they stole her whole future.
Culled from Daily Mirror