Davis sentenced to life without parole in dragging death

Tuesday, October 2, 2001

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Jurors sentenced Kim. L. Davis to life in prison without parole Tuesday in the dragging death of a 6-year-old Independence boy.

Davis dropped his head in an apparent sigh of relief with the news that he had avoided the death penalty sought by prosecutors.

Jake was dragged to death behind his mother's stolen sport utility vehicle. Davis' attorney never argued that Davis wasn't driving but said he was unaware the boy was being dragged.

Davis, 36, was convicted last week of first-degree murder. The same jury then had to decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Jurors heard from Jake's family as prosecutors argued for the death penalty.

Greg Robel works at the cemetery where his six-year-old son is buried.

"I set his headstone," Robel told jurors Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court. "I prune the roses by the peach tree in the garden where he's buried not 15 feet away."

Christy Robel, Jake's mother, told jurors about grief, guilt and a sadness brought on by the simplest experiences, such as seeing other mothers buying school supplies for their children.

Jurors heard stories and equally heartfelt testimony from family and friends of Davis, who said he was a man who loved and cared for children.

Greg Robel said Jake struggled at a young age because of a potentially fatal illness, but recovered by age 5.

"He started kindergarten and hadn't missed a school day," he said. "Everything was going great."

He and Jake loved wildlife and the outdoors and often went on long treks. "It's hard to get out of bed in the morning now that he's not there," he said.

Greg Robel also said he could not drive near the Independence strip mall where Davis jumped into Christy Robel's Chevrolet Blazer and dragged Jake away.

Christy Robel said she struggled with grief, guilt, flashbacks and other problems.

Robel intended to buy her son a soft drink the afternoon of Feb. 22, 2000, and left the keys in the Blazer's ignition. That was when Davis got into the vehicle. She ran to try to free Jake from the back seat. She pulled Jake to the ground with her arms wrapped around him, but so was the seat belt.

Davis drove off, taking Jake with him.

"Every night I go to bed with that memory, and every morning I wake up to it," said Jake's mother, who also testified that she considers herself partly to blame for his death. "About 5 million times a day it just pops into my head."

Davis' mother, Shirley Pettie, testified that her son loved and cared for his children and others in the family.

"He always was there to help," she said.

Pettie said her son's life had been marked by tragedy -- a father who died of diabetes, a brother shot to death and another sibling killed by a fall from a window.

"I can't even imagine any more grief," she said.

Patrice Adams, Davis' sister, testified that her brother helped care for her children. She sobbed when she considered the possibility that he would be executed.

"I couldn't take it," she said. "My kids love him. My husband loves him."

Defense attorney William Shull had pleaded with jurors not to recommend execution.

"The dying has to stop," he said. "The tragedy has to stop."

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