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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Davis sentenced to life in prison

Victims of last summer's Ennis shootings stared at George Harold Davis' back as he shuffled out of a tense Madison County courthouse Friday to begin serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

Davis, 46, was sentenced to seven life sentences without parole for murdering 27-year-old Jamie Roberts and trying to kill six other young people outside an Ennis bar last summer. The sentences will run concurrently.
During a three-hour hearing Friday, Roberts' parents took the stand and warned Davis that he would be judged by God.

"You, George Davis, do not deserve anything other than rotting in hell," Roberts' mother, Sharon Clark said. "Or, better yet, why don't you do us all a favor and kill yourself as you killed my son and tried to kill six other very innocent young adults?"

Roberts' stepfather, Doug Clark, talked about the night of the murder, when he loaded Jamie's lifeless body into the bed of pickup truck to take him to the hospital.

"Do you know what it is like to step out a door and see your son on the street, and hear a gunshot and watch him fall to the ground?" Doug Clark asked.

During the testimony, Davis did not make eye contact with Roberts' parents. He sat, handcuffed, in an orange jump suit. At one point, he began crying and dabbed at his eyes.

Davis pleaded guilty in March to murder and six counts of attempted murder. In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

But even though it has been more than a year since Roberts' death, his family's wounds are still fresh. Roberts' widow, Kandi Popp, submitted her testimony to the court through a victim's advocate, who read it aloud in court.

"People say that time eases pain," Popp said. "I don't think that is true. It just makes us miss Jamie even more."

Her husband died on June 14, 2003. That night, Davis, after many hours of drinking, began gunning down young people outside the Silver Dollar Saloon on Main Street in Ennis.

He killed Roberts, of Ennis, wounded six others and led police on a high-speed chase. He was shot, and eventually arrested, in Missoula County.

In court Friday, Davis said he was pushed out of the bar by a "fat man" and blacked out that night. He said he was sorry. And he said he had stopped taking antidepressant medication, which contributed to his rampage.

"I was shocked," Davis said. "I was scared. For some reason everything went black.

"I could sit here and repent over and over. Again, I'm sorry."

Davis said he abruptly stopped taking the antidepressant drug Paxil in the days leading up to the murder.

His defense attorney, Ed Sheehy Jr., argued that heavy drinking and withdrawals from the drug instigated the shootings.

Sheehy asked the court to sentence Davis to 40 years in prison, with 40 years probation on top of that.

"That's because Mr. Davis is a middle-aged man," Sheehy said. "He is 46 years old. He'll be 86 before he even walks outside of prison walls."

But prosecutors argued that Davis was unrepentant for the shootings, and was simply looking for excuses for his "evil" behavior.

"He is the very face of evil," Madison County Attorney Bob Zenker said. "He's the kind of evil that all of us as parents try to protect our children from."

Zenker said Davis is a racist, hates cops and can't blame this killing on medication.

Everywhere he goes, Zenker said, the most-often-asked question is "Why?"

That's what Mike Carroll, one of the six shooting victims, asked Davis Friday.

"I talked you that night," Carroll said. "You shot me. You shot my wife."

Carroll asked Davis why he did it.

But Davis had no clear answer, other than that he didn't remember the shootings.

When Tucker handed down the life sentence in the old, Virginia City courthouse, there was a collective sigh in the gallery where 50 people sat, many of them wearing T-shirts with the initials"JR" on them. Under the initials, they read "Just Remember, June 14, 2003."

Family and friends of the victims cried when Davis left the courtroom. Moments later, several of them clapped.

Along with life in prison, Davis must pay $76,000 in restitution to the six shooting victims.

As people left the courthouse just before noon on Friday, they passed a car bearing a bumper sticker created in response to Davis' shooting spree. It read "Love Wins. Ennis, Montana"

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