Homicide victim had just moved to Raleigh to manage a bank branch

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comMay 19, 2013 

Melissa Huggins-Jones

BLADEN-GASKINS FUNERAL HOME

—  Ron Gallagher

Recently divorced, Melissa Huggins-Jones moved from Tennessee to Raleigh two weeks ago to manage a new bank branch.

“Melissa was just a model employee, a great employee,” said Chad Wortman, her former supervisor at First Tennessee Bank in Bradley County. “The fact that she was chosen to lead a bank branch in a new, strategic area speaks volumes about her.”

Huggins-Jones, 30, was found dead in her bedroom by her 8-year-old daughter Tuesday morning, covered in blood and not responding.

Although investigators have not disclosed how she died, police have declared her death a homicide. No arrests have been made or suspects named in the case.

A heavy police presence remains around Huggins-Jones’ apartment at 441 Allister Drive since her death. Search warrants made public Thursday show that detectives have accessed information on her Facebook account, which she deleted three days before she was found dead.

Police spokesman Jim Sughrue confirmed Thursday that four motor vehicle break-ins were reported in the Ramblewood subdivision, near North Hills where Huggins-Jones lived, on the same morning she was killed.

Investigators stopped short, however, of saying there is a link between the break-ins and Huggins-Jones’ death.

“Obviously we are looking into those,” Sughrue said Thursday afternoon. “Our people who investigate homicides are aware of them, but we have not drawn a connection between the two cases at this point.”

Wortman, a vice-president and regional manager at First Tennessee, was Huggins-Jones’ direct supervisor for about 10 years. Her last assignment under his supervision was as manager of one of the bank’s branches in that region. Her move to North Carolina put her closer to family members living in Elizabethtown and Wilmington.

“I sent her an email about a week and a half ago to let her know that her corporate credit card had arrived and to get a snail-mail address from her to send her an award she had won. It was a 2012 award for her year-long performance,” he said.

Wortman said he and Huggins-Jones rarely discussed personal matters.

“The only discussions we had were on a business level,” he said.

A spokeswoman at the Bradley County Clerk of Courts Office in Cleveland, Tenn., confirmed that divorce papers are on file for Huggins-Jones and her former husband, Robert Nathaniel Jones. But she did not disclose the date the divorce papers were filed.

Robert Jones could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In applying for a search warrant, Detective R.J. Pike wrote that family members said Huggins-Jones had deleted her Facebook profile Saturday.

Pike said detectives wanted to see all messages, phone numbers, status updates, friend listings, photos and other data “in an attempt to glean further information regarding Ms. Jones’ activities and develop a possible suspect in her homicide.”

The vehicle break-ins in the 300 block of Allister Drive were reported at 12:43 a.m. Tuesday. All four of the victims were women. None could be reached for comment Thursday.

A little after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Huggins-Jones’ daughter went to workers who were building more apartments in the Ramblewood complex off Six Forks Road and told them her mother was covered in blood and not responding.

A worker called 911 and followed her back to the apartment, but he told an operator Huggins-Jones was not breathing and was cold to the touch, suggesting she had been dead for some time.

Mike Jordan, who lives about a block from Huggins-Jones’ apartment, said there’s been a lot of speculation among neighbors about what happened. He and his wife have lived in the neighborhood “since before the Beltline was built,” he said.

“It’s really kind of a sad situation,” he said.

A celebration of Huggins-Jones’ life will be held 2 p.m. Sunday at the Elizabethtown Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, where most of her family lives.

News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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