CHAPEL HILL: 2 charged with murder in death of UNC professor - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

2 charged with first-degree murder in beating death of UNC professor, cancer researcher

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Derick Davis II, 23 (Left) and Troy Arrington, Jr., 27, (Right) Derick Davis II, 23 (Left) and Troy Arrington, Jr., 27, (Right)
Feng Liu, 59, was found severely beaten on West University Drive in Chapel Hill. Feng Liu, 59, was found severely beaten on West University Drive in Chapel Hill.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

Two men with long criminal records are now charged with first-degree murder after Chapel Hill Police say they robbed and beat to death a University of North Carolina professor who researched ways to treat cancer.

Police arrested Derick Davis II, 23, and Troy Arrington, Jr., 27, Wednesday night after Liu, 59, of Durham, was found severely beaten around 1 p.m. on West University Drive. Liu was transported to UNC Hospitals, where he later died.

West University Drive is about three short blocks from the on-campus UNC Hospital.

Davis was initially charged with misdemeanor possession of stolen goods, common law robbery and assault inflicting serious bodily injury. Police also initially charged Arrington with common law robbery and assault inflicting bodily injury. Davis is from Durham and Arrington is from Chapel Hill.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said both men have also been charged with first-degree murder.

Murders are rare in Chapel Hill, a town of roughly 59,000, but the community has been rocked by several high-profile murders recently. UNC student body president Eve Carson was murdered during the night in 2008. Carolina student Faith Hedgepeth was found dead in her apartment in 2012 and police are investigating it as a homicide. And Lew Hahn Hood died of multiple gunshot wounds at his home in May.

In Liu’s death, police say a passerby provided information about suspicious persons in the area of the robbery that helped identify the suspects.

Both suspects are being held in the Orange County Jail without bond.

Arrington has a long criminal history that includes possession of a firearm by a felon, obtaining property on false premises and carrying a concealed weapon.

According to state records, a Derick Davis from Durham with the same birthday as the man charged in the Liu case had faced felony breaking and entering charges, possession of stolen goods, multiple larceny charges and speeding to elude arrest.

Liu was a research professor in UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

“I think the school’s in shock, in mourning,” said vice dean Russell Mumper of the UNC School of Pharmacy. “The news hit hard. Feng Liu had been a member of our community for a decade. Highly respected colleague, faculty member.”

Mumpher called Liu an “outgoing, very jovial person. Very optimistic. Loving. Excellent, highly respected researcher and teacher and to lose someone of that quality is just heartbreaking.”

Mumpher said Liu was working on effective ways to treat cancer and was a “great researcher.”

He also said Liu would often walk around the area for a break.

“Feng was a prolific walker after lunch to get fresh air. He was well known to take a walk around the campus or the local community,” Mumpher said. “So, that was kind of typical just to get a half hour walk in before going back and doing research into his laboratory.”

Mumpher said Liu was married and lived in Durham with his family.

According to his bio on the Carolina website, Liu got his BS and MS in pharmaceutics science at Shenyang Pharmaceutical University in China and his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh.

Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt called Liu's death "a horrible tragedy and loss for the Chapel Hill community."

"A safe and secure environment is fundamental to our quality of life in Chapel Hill and, as a community, we must not tolerate such senseless violence," Kleinschmidt said. "The Town and the University continue to partner on those matters impacting quality of life in Chapel Hill, public safety being chief among them."

UNC graduate student Blake Nelson, who lives near the site where Liu was beaten, said, “It’s sort of shocking that someone was beaten to death over whatever he had on his person this close to the school in a neighborhood like this with a lot of families and people who work at the university.”

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