An Orange County jury got its first look Friday at a rock that prosecutors contend was used to kill UNC research professor Feng Liu near UNC’s campus in 2014.
Troy Arrington, 30, of Chapel Hill has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the case. He and Derick Davis II, 26, of Durham are accused of killing Liu on July 23, 2014, and stealing his wallet and credit cards.
The men have been held in the Orange County jail since their arrest on July 24, 2014.
They could get life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Chatham-Orange District Attorney Jim Woodall is not seeking the death penalty in the case.
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Woodall presented several pieces of evidence to the jury Friday, including screenshots from Liu’s cell phone, clothing that Arrington may have been wearing during the attack, DNA swab kits, and a wallet containing Liu’s personal cards and documents.
Additional witnesses are expected to testify about what authorities learned from the evidence.
Chapel Hill Police Investigator Patrick Gilchrist testified Friday that he found the landscaping rock in the yard of a home near the intersection of West University Drive and Ransom Street in Chapel Hill. He held the rock in the palm of one hand while showing it to the jury.
Liu, 59, of Durham was hit in the head with the rock around 1 p.m. while out for a walk, authorities said. A town of Chapel Hill worker found him lying in the street a short time later. Liu died the next day at UNC Hospitals.
Gilchrist said he went to the hospital after the attack to identify Liu, using the professor’s cell phone to reach out to his contacts. He could see Liu lying in an emergency room bed from the nurses’ station, he said.
“I could see he had a large amount of swelling in his face. I could see several cuts and lacerations on his face. There was a large amount of blood on his face and neck area,” Gilchrist said.
Liu, a Chinese native, was an internationally known scientist and had worked at UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy since 2005.
Family and friends filled nearly half of the courtroom Friday, as Gilchrist testified to finding a pair of black gloves, cell phones and a brown wallet in Davis’ pocket. Liu’s personal cards were inside the wallet, he said, and four credit cards were on the ground nearby, one of which had his photo on it.
Chapel Hill police canvassed the neighborhood after the attack to see if anyone witnessed the attack, Gilchrist said. They did not find anyone, he said.
Davis’ trial has not been scheduled. The case against Arrington will continue Monday.