Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TOP STORY >> He talked his way free until murders

Leader staff writer

Is it fair to suggest that parolee James Michael Davis, 37, who is accused of killing two people from the Cabot area on Dec. 23, slipped through the cracks of law enforcement and the prison system and could have been in jail that evening instead of at the home of people he is accused of killing?

Or does that suggestion detract from an alleged killer’s culpability and place unfair blame on the agencies that deal with lawbreakers?

Davis, accused in the stabbing deaths of David Linnon Smith, 56, and Tracy Mills, 45, could have been in the Pulaski County Jail for stealing a car in Cabot.

But he was released just two days before Smith and Davis were killed because he had already been in jail for 60 days without charges being filed against him and that is as long as allowed under state rules for criminal procedure.

After he left the Pulaski County Jail, Davis could have been held in the Cabot lockup, but he wasn’t.

“When they decided to release him, they called us,” said Lt. Brent Lucas, spokesman for the Cabot Police Department.

Cabot had a misdemeanor arrest warrant for Davis’ for failing to pay fines to district court. If it had been possible, a Cabot police officer would have transported Davis to Cabot, but it wasn’t possible, Lucas said.

“That particular day, we were very busy, and we were short staffed. When we have needs for service, we answer those first, especially if the warrant is for a misdemeanor,” he said.

Instead, Pulaski County jailers released Davis and told him that his court date in Cabot had been set for Feb. 8.

Davis also could have been back in prison for violating his parole. But a hearing to revoke parole wasn’t held until Tuesday morning.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham, who attended that hearing, said the murder case was discussed, but he also heard talk about Davis not reporting to his parole officer, not reporting that he had a job, theft of property and not appearing in court, which could have landed Davis back in prison.

The State Police are conducting an internal investigation to determine why the trooper’s report of Davis’ alleged theft of a car in Cabot wasn’t turned over to Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley in time to file charges and keep Little Rock District Judge Alice Lightle from ordering his release.

Bill Sadler, spokesman for the State Police, said he doesn’t know how long the investigation will take.

“You never put a clock to something like this,” Sadler said. “If it takes an extra day or the week to get it in, let’s get it in and get it right.”

Davis, who is from Conway, is held without bail in the Lonoke County Detention Facility, but Graham said since his parole was revoked on Tuesday, it’s possible he will be sent back to prison until his trial.

He is scheduled to appear in circuit court for plea and arraignment at 9 a.m. Feb. 13. Graham has not officially filed charges against Davis, but he said it will be done before Davis goes to court and inside the 60-day window. The sheriff’s office has recommended charging Davis with two counts of capital murder.

The incident report about the stabbings said Mills identified Davis as the man who stabbed her and Smith.

Lonoke County Sheriff’s deputies were called at 7:48 p.m. Dec. 23 to the triplex on Charles Drive off North Stagecoach Road on Hwy. 38 between Cabot and Ward, where Davis appeared to be living with Mills and Smith.

The caller told the 911 operator that a woman on her front porch was screaming for help. She had been stabbed, and she was bleeding.

While deputies were responding to the scene, the caller said a man was stabbing the woman and another man on the caller’s front porch.

She then said the two stabbing victims were lying motionless on her porch, and she believed they were dead. The man ran away.

Mills was taken by ambulance to Ward and airlifted to North Metro Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Emergency medical technicians told deputies that Smith was dead at the scene.

State Police, along with Ward and Austin police officers, arrived to assist.

A dog tracking team from the Department of Corrections’ Tucker Unit assisted in a search of a nearby wooded area, where Davis was found less than two hours after Mills and Smith were stabbed.

Sheriff Jim Roberson said soon after Davis was arrested that he wasn’t cooperating with the investigation.

Chief Deputy Dean White, who runs the jail, elaborated, saying Davis was claiming that he didn’t know his own identity.

But that appears to have changed. The prosecutor, who saw Davis on Tuesday during his parole hearing said, “He knew who he was today.”