Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sentence delayed for dad accused of killing 5-month-old daughter, family dog (Erie, Pennsylvania)

Dad VINCENT DAVIS just can't seem to stick to one story. First he pleads guilty to killing his 5-month-old daughter and the family dog, then he didn't do it. Then he...sort of did it. I'm thinking...he did do it. Only prison isn't looking like a very amusing prospect. That's why we're seeing the sudden development of the mental illness excuse here, too.

Sentence postponed for Erie man accused of killing baby, dog
Sentencing in killing delayed


When he pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and cruelty to animals in September, Erie resident Vincent Davis admitted to killing his 5-month-old daughter and the family dog in February.

When he wrote to his sentencing judge in November, Davis, a 25-year-old with psychiatric problems, changed his position.

He said he did not kill his daughter.

And on Friday, when he stood before Erie County Judge William R. Cunningham, waiting to be sentenced, Davis offered yet another version of events.

He acknowledged that he was responsible for the death of his daughter, Savonnia Davis, but he said he never intended to kill her. He said he was shaking her while she was crying, but she slipped out of his hands and hit her head on the floor.

"I didn't do it," Vincent Davis told Cunningham.

After listening to the conflicting statements and reviewing Davis' mental health, Cunningham adjourned the sentencing hearing and indefinitely postponed it.

Cunningham did not provide a reason for his decision -- he had a clerk make the announcement after he left the courtroom -- but Davis' behavior at the aborted hearing appeared to give Cunningham pause.

Davis was returned to the Erie County Prison, where he is being held without bond. His court-appointed lawyer, John Moore, declined to comment, as did District Attorney Jack Daneri.

Friday's events were in some ways to be expected. Davis in August backed out of a plea before Cunningham after Davis balked at admitting he killed the dog, Marley, a Jack Russell terrier.

Davis then pleaded guilty in September, but only after Cunningham went through a lengthy process to make sure Davis knew what he was doing in entering the plea.

"It happened," Davis said at that hearing. "It is on me."

Davis with the plea admitted he killed his daughter and the dog on Feb. 24 at 211 E. 30th St., where Davis' daughter and her mother lived.

Davis faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in state prison. He was supposed to be sentenced in November, but Cunningham postponed that hearing to Friday so the judge could review a psychiatric evaluation.

Davis suffers from a schizoaffective disorder, which includes delusional thoughts and mood problems, according to court records. He also has a history of abusing alcohol and using marijuana.

Under the state sentencing guidelines, Davis' recommended sentence with the guilty plea would be nine to 18 years in state prison. If Davis were to withdraw his plea and be convicted at trial, the sentence could be longer.

Davis' mother, Twanda Davis, talked to her crying son during a break in Friday's hearing.

"We don't hate you," she said. "We all love you."

She said afterward she plans to visit her son in prison Tuesday and urge him to stick with the guilty plea so Cunningham can sentence him.

"It is the right thing to do," Twanda Davis said.