GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The fact Donald Davidson pleaded guilty to killing 37-year-old Roseann Welsh in her Middleburg home five years didn’t keep some of the horrifying details of the crime from being revealed during his sentencing hearing.
The state pushed hard in its desire to have Davidson die by lethal injection by telling Judge Donald Lester how the mother was killed. Davidson waived his right to have a jury to recommend his sentence.
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 and drug abuse and a low IQ.
The trail was put on hold until Monday, July 1, when a final defense witness is scheduled to testify. After that, it will be up to Lester to decide whether Davidson goes to Florida’s Death Row or spends the rest of his life in prison.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s opening was a powerful indictment of her office’s determination that Davidson deserves to die for strangling, raping and stabbing Welsh, then kidnapping and assaulting her 10-year-old daughter on Dec. 1, 2014.
“On behalf of the people of the State of Florida, we are seeking this Court sentence Donald Davidson to death,” Nelson said.
“Our state’s highest Court has held that the penalty of death is reserved for the worst of murders. This, Your Honor, fits the bill. This homicide indeed qualifies as ‘the worst of murders.’ The aggravation in this case is significant in both quantity and weight.
“When caught, he confessed. And we find ourselves here today because he has pled guilty. Whatever credit he may be due for these decisions – and for which his counsel will certainly argue-- simply cannot overcome the many inhumane and cruel decisions he made before these. Penalty by death, Judge Lester, is what Donald Davidson deserves.”
The victim’s son read a statement, telling the judge how it’s affected him.
“My mom will never see me graduate, or get married, or hold and play with her grandkids. My mom had the kindest heart and I miss the talks we had every day. I miss every day when I got up and she would say Good Morning and give me a hug. But this was taken from me, and I wake up every day not wanting to get up, because I know that my mother will never be there again. I have a large whole in the heart and I just don’t understand why this happened to my family and me,” he said.
The son found his mother’s body in a bathroom.
The defense didn’t refute the heinous nature of the crime. It, instead, focused on Davidson’s past and how it kept him from fully appreciating his crime.
The defendant’s brother, James Earl, said Davidson was conceived during an affair, and by the time he was 10, he was living with two uncles who were registered sex offenders. Earl also said he and Davidson were molested by an older cousin, but he didn’t tell anyone until the woman was killed in a DUI accident.
Dr. Robert Ouaou also testified trauma during childhood may have affected the development of his brain. He also said Davidson suffered with A.D.H.D. and an IQ of 85.