By Jeff Lehr
PINEVILLE, Mo. —
Johnny Davis Jr. will be headed back to prison after a jury found him guilty Friday of violently abducting two women south of Joplin for the purpose of sexually assaulting them.
Jurors deliberated about 50 minutes at the end of a two-day trial in Pineville before convicting Davis, 33, of two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of kidnapping. He could receive up to 15 years on the kidnapping convictions and from 10 to 30 years on the assault convictions.
Circuit Judge John LePage set his sentencing hearing for May 1.
The defendant, who is from rural Nowata, Okla., was on parole when he abducted the women on Dec. 26, 2011, and took them to Oklahoma, where they say he forced them to perform oral sex on him and raped the younger of the two victims more than once.
The women, 30 and 40 years of age, were trying to obtain methamphetamine when they met Davis in the early morning hours on Cedar Drive south of the Petro truck stop in Newton County. The older woman had called a female friend to help them get some meth, and she received a text message back to meet a man at that location who would take them to her friend.
Neither of the victims knew the defendant. Testimony indicated that he had been with the woman they called and had access to her phone. The prosecution contended that he was the one who actually sent them the message instructing them where they were to go.
When they got to the rendezvous, he attacked them, punching one in the side of her head and the other in her face. He then forced them into his truck and drove them into Oklahoma.
In addition to the kidnapping and assault charges, at the start of the trail the defendant was facing two counts of armed criminal action. The older woman had testified Thursday that Davis displayed a pocketknife in a threatening manner while driving them around.
The judge threw out one count of armed criminal action after the state rested its case on Friday because the younger woman had testified that she never saw a knife. The jury then acquitted the defendant of the second count of armed criminal action.
No evidence was presented of any knife being recovered by investigators despite information in a probable-cause affidavit that investigators found a pocketknife with blood on it at the abduction scene. Testimony concerning that knife was not allowed to be introduced at trial since investigators were not able to link it to the defendant in any other manner.
The primary issue in the trial was whether the women’s accounts were believable or not, especially since the defendant ultimately had taken them back to Missouri to the emergency room of Freeman Hospital West in Joplin and waited for them outside.
Davis did not take the witness stand in his own defense. Instead, the defense played an audiotape of a statement he made to investigators following his arrest outside the hospital. In the brief interview, he declined to discuss specifics but insisted that he had shown “nothing but respect” toward the women the entire time he was with them.
“If I assaulted these women, do you think I would bring them all the way back to Joplin and stand outside the hospital and wait for them?” Davis asked the investigators.
He also asked that they preserve what forensic evidence they might find on the steering wheel and gearshift of his truck, since one of the women had driven the truck twice that day, a detail he believed supported his account that he had not harmed them.
Public defender Agnes Prevendarczik-Hoell told jurors in closing argument that the women’s actions the day in question and their testimonies at trial did not make sense. The two women were looking for drugs and ended up smoking meth with the defendant for free, she said. They had various opportunities to leave or to try to seek help from others and they did not, she said.
Prosecutor Jake Skouby called the defendant’s story “patently absurd,” that somebody might be with someone who was seriously injured for 12 hours without taking her to the hospital. He said Davis only agreed to take them there after that much time because he was finally coming down from his meth high, and the women were able to convince him that they would go along with a proposed cover story that he had rescued them from some other attacker.
“Either they’re making it all up, or he did it,” Skouby summed up the case for the jury.
The prosecutor also asked jurors not to hold against the younger victim her admitted development of feelings for Davis over the course of their ordeal. He said it is hard for anyone to know how a person might act under similar circumstances when their life may be in jeopardy.
“She doesn’t need to be vilified. She doesn’t need to be made fun of,” Skouby said. “She needs help.”
Johnny R. Davis Jr. was convicted in Craig County, Okla., in 1999 of raping a teacher after hours on school grounds and served 11 years of a 30-year sentence before being released in 2010. Oklahoma has placed a hold on him with the Missouri court system for violating the terms of that release. Davis also could face prosecution in Oklahoma for the sexual offenses the two Missouri women allege.