The son-in-law of Feng Lui testified the UNC professor was unrecognizable as he lay in a hospital bed in 2014 after being attacked with a rock.
On Monday District Attorney Jim Woodall showed Will Norflett a large picture of his father-in-law on a tropical beach, on vacation, leaning back in a light blue shirt and casual, loose pants. Norflett became emotional as he followed Woodall’s instruction to hold the vacation picture high, the image pointed toward and jury, and described who Liu was as a person and what he had meant to his family.
One family member, shaken, stood up crying and left the courtroom.
Norflett himself broke into tears when asked to describe his father-in-law’s appearance while he lay in ICU.
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“He was unrecognizable,” Norflett said. “I would have never known it was him, if I would have seen him and did not have the context. He looked like his head had been blown up like a balloon.”
Troy Arrington, 30, who is on trial, and Derick Davis II, 26, whose trial has not yet been scheduled, are accused of assaulting Liu, 59, inflicting massive head trauma, robbing him of his wallet and credit cards and leaving the professor for dead on July 23, 2014, near the UNC campus.
Norflett was responsible for the closings his father-in-law’s financial accounts. Woodall presented a photograph of Liu’s Visa card and with statements of purchases made on the card after the professor was fatally attacked
“And were you able to identify an unauthorized use of this card, in this case?” Woodall asked.
“Yes sir, August 24, Virgin Mobile for $40,” Norflett said.
Norflett also identified an “activity alert” sent from Bank of America on July 23, 2014, regarding “unusual activity” on Liu’s ATM card to make a purchase of $539.96 from sneakerhead.com.
Also Monday, Orange County Sheriff’s Office detention officer Austin Bateman testified about the night of Oct. 29, 2015. Bateman said he was making his usual evening rounds when Arrington handed him two envelopes containing letters the inmate wished mailed.
Bateman said he noticed one of the letters written by Arrington was addressed to Arrington. The address written on the envelope was for the Orange County jail.
Arrington had written a letter to himself.
It’s legal for detention officers to check for contraband in and read inmates’ outgoing mail, unless the mail is going to a representing attorney.
Detention facility operations administrator Lt. J. Sellew testified that upon further inspection of the letter it was discovered that the letter had been signed as if it had been written by Davis.
Bateman read the letter aloud to the court:
“Troy ... why you snitching on me? Whatever you say about me, I will turn it around on you. ... I knew that you were going to turn on me once the police started asking you questions about the robbery.”
Earier in the day a neurosurgeon testified that swelling in Liu’s brain was reaching a critical point and medical staff decided to proceed with surgery in an attempt to lessen the swelling.
Dr. Eldad Hadar said the surgical team operated on Liu, removing a piece of his skull, and found multiple “points of fracture” in the skull. Liu died in the intensive care unit at UNC Hospitals the next morning.
Hadar explained to the jury that it’s common practice for emergency room doctors to consult a neurosurgeon after determining a patient has suffered severe head or spinal injury.