GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A judge decided Wednesday Donald Davidson Jr. should be executed for 2014 murder of a Middleburg woman and the rape of her 10-year-old daughter.
Judge Don Lester sent Davidson to Death Row Wednesday morning by agreeing with the state’s position that aggravating factors outweighed any mitigating factors. Davidson, a registered sexual predator, showed little emotion when Lester said: “the appropriate sentence is death.”
Davidson showed no emotion when the sentence was announced.
Davidson pleaded guilty in June for killing 37-year-old Roseann Welsh and sexually battering her 10-year-old daughter in their Middleburg home, and he waved his right for a jury to recommend his sentence.
Prosecutors pushed hard for the death penalty, touching on the horrific details of the murder and his past as a sexual predator.
Davidson’s defense painted a picture of a man who was surrounded by other sex offenders, being abused for years by an older cousin, having mental issues created by his upbringing, drug abuse and a low IQ.
“With my very first involvement with the case, I thought the facts demanded the death penalty,” said chief assistant state attorney Leh Hutton, who presented the state’s case during the sentencing hearing. “This was not just personal to us, but to the people of Clay County. This was a crime that shocked people. I’m sure it instilled fear to think it could happen in your community. In this type of law and order community we have in Clay County, it was personal to them.”
Outside the courtroom, Welsh’s mother hugged a stuffed Teddy bear. She quietly thanked the prosecution team, the said, “Now maybe I can sleep.”
Welsh’s two children, including a son who was 13 when he discovered his mother’s body in bathroom, weren’t at court. A family member said they went to school.
Welsh’s aunt and uncle, Kim and Michael Hajaistron, drove from Tampa for the sentencing. They also were in the courtroom when Davidson pleaded guilty and they spoke on behalf of their niece during the sentencing phase.
“There’s closure because he can’t do this to anyone else,” Michael Hajaistron said. “We have a hole in our heart that will never heal. We might have an ugly scar that will form over a really long time but it's never going to go away.”
Neither the aunt nor uncle spoke of Davidson by name.
Tiffany Lagasse fought tears when she heard the verdict. Davidson attacked her in 2010 while she was pregnant. He was sentenced to prison for attempting to strangle her, but he was released shortly before he murdered Welsh. He was wearing a GPS ankle monitor, but he cut if off shortly after he used his shoelace and knife to kill Welsh.
Lagasse was relieved Davidson would soon be joining 341 other inmates on Florida’s Death Row.
“He won’t be allowed out to hurt anyone else’s families. He finally felt today what he did to all of us,” she said. “There was no choice, and he couldn’t change his fate of what he got just like he did to every one of us. He didn’t give any of his victims a choice. There’s no fixing pure evil, and that’s what he is.”
State Attorney Melissa Nelson said she immediately thought of Welsh’s children as Lester imposed his sentence.
"This case shocked the conscience of Clay County – a kidnapping of a child and rape and murder of her mother. Today brings an end to at least one chapter of the ongoing nightmare for Rosie Welsh's children, her husband and family.”
Davidson’s sentence will automatically be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, Nelson said.
Mark Wright, Davidson attorney, said his client accepted responsibility for the crime and “quite frankly, he is not surprised that this day happened.”