Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Custodial dad charged with 1st-degree murder in brutal beating death of 4-year-old daughter (Cherokee, North Carolina)

As is often the case in these stories, there are a lot of buried facts and things that are not explained at all.

1) A careful reading shows that this vicious killer was in fact a custodial father. He also had custody of a son.

2) The murdered girl apparently lived with both parents back in New Jersey. There were apparently concerns about her being malnourished then. Was this the mother's fault? Apparently, not as the problem PERSISTED after Daddy got hold of her and moved out of state, and in fact seemingly got WORSE.

3) How did this father get custody? Who gave it to him? Why was he allowed to cut off all contact with the mother (this often happens with abusive control freak fathers, contrary to what the FR folks tell you about "gatekeeping" mothers)? Who allowed him to move out of state, when mothers are routinely forbidden by the family courts to do the same?

4) The son reported abuse by the father to social workers before, and had documentable bruising. Why was there no follow up?

Lots of unanswered questions here.

Dad is identified as ERIC DAVIS.

Autopsy report reveals extent of murdered child’s injuries

Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 2:00 pm

By Quintin Ellison

When a pathologist examined Erica Davis, practically the only parts of her body not broken, bruised or fractured were the little girl’s legs, according to a lengthy autopsy report released last week by Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The 4-year-old child’s father, Eric Davis, 24, remains jailed on charges he abused his daughter and son Oct. 11, 2013, in a room at the Qualla Motel near Cherokee. Erica died Oct. 12 at Asheville’s Mission Hospital after she was taken off life support.

Davis is charged with first-degree murder and two counts of intentional child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. Deemed unable to pay for legal help, he has been assigned two lawyers by the state’s Office of Indigent Defense Services. Having two lawyers – a more-experienced first chair and a second chair – is standard practice when it appears reasonably likely that prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

That isn’t certain. A required pretrial hearing (rule 24) to determine whether the state intends to proceed with a capital case hasn’t been held. Davis is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 9.

State law passed in 2001 gives a prosecutor the discretion to try a first-degree murder case without seeking the death penalty, even if aggravating circumstances exist to support a death sentence. These are factors that increase the severity or culpability of the alleged criminal act.

Last November, District Attorney Mike Bonfoey declined to comment on the case.

One aggravating circumstance under North Carolina law is whether “the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved (or involved torture).”

The autopsy lists the official cause of Erica’s death as “acute intracranial injury with subdural hematoma and cerebral edema” due to blunt trauma to the head.

Erica was struck repeatedly, including with a cylindrical object; multiple contusions and several lacerations were found. There was blunt trauma to her thorax, abdomen, back and pelvis; three of her ribs were fractured.

Erica was very underweight for her age, just 29 pounds (less than the fifth percentile, the pathologist, Dr. Patrick Lantz, wrote). She was wearing a disposable diaper, unusual for a child that age. Social workers in New Jersey, where her parents initially lived, had reported in 2009 to a judge that Erica, then an infant, appeared malnourished. The little girl was later returned to the custody of her mother and father, both 19 at the time. In an October, 2013, interview, Erica’s mother told The Herald she had last seen her daughter in July 2011.

In a summary of his findings, the pathologist wrote that Erica had been living at the Qualla Motel with her father, brother and aunt, according to investigative reports he reviewed.

“The father called 911 stating that (Erica) was choking on water. When paramedics arrived, she was unresponsive,” the pathologist said. Law enforcement officers were called to the scene.

Davis’ son, then age 3, told a Jackson County social worker that his father “made the boo-boos,” according to court documents used to support a search warrant. The boy’s buttocks were heavily bruised and there were handprint marks on both sides of his face.