Friday, October 10, 2014

TOP STORY >> Conway convict guilty of murders

Leader staff writer

Convicted felon James Michael Davis, 39, of Conway was sentenced Thursday to two consecutive life terms without parole for the Dec. 23, 2011 stabbings of a couple who died at their home off Hwy. 38.

A Lonoke County Circuit Court jury deliberated for 30 minutes before finding Davis guilty on two counts of first-degree murder. He was on parole when he murdered Charles Smith and Tracey Mills, who were giving him shelter when they were stabbed.

The victims’ family held hands and cried when Judge Barbara Elmore read the jury’s decision. Davis’ adopted parents slumped and wept in the courtroom.

Mills’ sister, Nichole Weatherly, said, “Though he has been sentenced, it matters not for how long he is behind bars.

“Forgiveness is something that is not earned. But I have freely forgiven him.”

Weatherly said Mills taught her family values and how to love.

“She showed love to everyone and asked nothing in return. Her smile would light up the place like a shining star,” Weatherly said.

Mills’ daughter, Christy, said the victim didn’t get to see her grandchild, her daughter graduate college or get married. Davis took that away from her.

Davis, who was found competent to stand trial, wore a red Arkansas pullover jacket. He constantly mumbled gibberish aloud during the proceedings and nodded his head with a wide-eyed sneer.

Public defenders Jonathan Lane and Robby Golden tried to persuade the seven women and five men on the jury that Davis had an undiagnosed mental defect.

Deputy prosecutors John Huggins and Christine Hendrickson presented evidence that Davis was putting on a show.

Experts at the state hospital testified that Davis was faking. He was there for six months receiving treatment and tests. Psychologists said he acted up when physicians were around. When filmed under surveillance, Davis was normal alone and with his peers. He played dominoes, basketball and asked for food.

Davis attempted to escape from the state hospital. He was able to jimmy a door open with a milk carton during a shift change there. Davis climbed a fence but was stopped in the parking lot.

On the night of the murders, according to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s incident report, deputies were called at 7:48 p.m. to the stabbings at 83 Charles Drive, at a triplex off North Stagecoach Road on Hwy. 38 between Cabot and Ward.

Smith, 56, and Mills, 45, were in a relationship and living together at 87 Charles Drive. Davis was receiving assistance and shelter from the couple.

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

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

She said the victims were left lying motionless on her porch, and she believed they were dead. The man who had stabbed them ran on foot from the area, the caller told police.

When deputies arrived, they found Mills lying on her side with her back against the raised porch of 83 Charles Drive.

She was stabbed twice in the chest and once in the neck. A large pool of blood was on the ground under Mills, and her shirt was covered in blood.

Smith was lying on his back with his head toward the door, and his legs were off the porch.

Smith had a large amount of blood on him. He was stabbed 15 times in the neck, abdomen, chest and legs. There were also injuries to his hands.

Allied Ambulance arrived at the same time as deputies. Mills was asking for help. While the ambulance crew was attending to Mills, a deputy asked her who stabbed her. She said it was “James Davis.”

As the deputy tried to get more information, Mills said she could not breathe and could not answer any more questions.

The deputy saw Smith looking as if he was gasping for air. His body rose slightly off the ground and went limp.

Mills was taken by ambulance to Ward, where she was air lifted to North Metro Medical Center. She was later pronounced dead.

Emergency medical technicians told deputies Smith had also passed away from his injuries.

A dog tracking team from the Department of Corrections Tucker Unit was called to assist deputies, State Police and police officers from Ward and Austin in a search of the nearby wooded area. Davis was found there and arrested less than two hours after Mills and Smith were stabbed. His clothes were bloodstained, police said.

Davis had a list of prior convictions. In 2007, he was convicted in Faulkner County for manufacturing, delivering and possessing a controlled substance and sentenced to 36 months in state prison. He was convicted in Lonoke County for fleeing.

In 2007, Davis was convicted in Pulaski County for possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to 36 months in state prison.

In May 2008, he was convicted in Lonoke County for writing a hot check and sentenced to 12 months in state prison. In June 2008, Davis was convicted in Pulaski County for theft by receiving, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, fleeing and theft of property. He was sentenced to five years probation.

Then, in 2008, he was convicted in Faulkner County of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon and theft of property. He was sentenced to 60 months in state prison.

In 2010, Davis was convicted in Faulkner County of residential burglary, theft of property, forgery, possession of a firearm by a felon and criminal mischief.

He was sentenced to 96 months in state prison.