Community shocked at number of people charged

Monday, July 29, 2002

BOLIVAR, Mo. -- The growing number of people charged in the beating death of a small-town drifter has shocked this Southwest Missouri town.

Court records contend that four men -- all allegedly involved in the burgeoning southern Missouri methamphetamine and marijuana trade --beat Rocky Davisson so badly that police had to use his tattoos to help identify his body. Several others allegedly knew about the killing and decided to help the accused instead of calling the police.

So far, nine people have been charged in connection with Davisson's July 12 death. And more arrests are likely, said Polk County Sheriff Michael L. Parson, who is leading the investigation.

"People are worried," said the Rev. Pete Davidson, a retired Baptist minister who lives outside Bolivar. "A lot of people don't realize there's dope in town, or they think they'll ignore it and it'll go away. People worry when a man gets beaten to death."

Authorities said Davisson's attackers hit and kicked him over a two-day period. He was left in a ditch on the side of a gravel road in neighboring Hickory County.

Parson said that Davisson knew his alleged attackers, and a small debt may have been involved.

Five people have been charged with kidnapping and second-degree murder. Four others have been charged with hindering prosecution.

Parson said he is struck by the savagery of the murder.

"There's a responsibility, civilly and morally, as much as criminally, to do the right thing," Parson said.

But, he added, "times have changed to a certain degree."

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