Davis' sister neither harms, helps his case

Published March 21, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - Sonia Davis may be the state's most incriminating witness in the first-degree murder trial of her brother, Harvey Gene Davis Jr.

But not the Sonia Davis who had to be dragged into court Tuesday under threat of arrest. Not the reluctant woman who, dressed in black, bowed her head on the witness stand and whispered "I don't know" while avoiding her brother's gaze.

The key witness in this trial is the Sonia Davis of three years ago. The hysterical woman who cried as she told a 911 operator, and later a grand jury, that her brother admitted to choking girlfriend Debbie Fossett, the New Port Richey police dispatcher.

The state played back the 911 call from June 29, 2004, minutes after authorities say Harvey Davis confessed to his sister:

"He said he hurt somebody," Sonia Davis said.

The dispatcher asked, hurt who?

"Her name is Deborah Fossett," Davis said. "She works at the police station. She lives on Beechwood (Drive)."

Who said this, asked the dispatcher?

"Harvey Davis," the sister said.

Listening to her own voice from years ago drove Sonia Davis to tears Tuesday.

The 36-year-old has been jailed for past refusals to accept subpoenas and testify truthfully.

But she was of little use to the state Tuesday, aside from the 911 call and her 2004 grand jury testimony. Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis spent most of his time asking Davis to confirm that grand jury testimony.

She even struggled to answer the most basic of questions.

"Would it be fair to say that this is really hurting you," Halkitis said, "having to testify against your brother, Harvey Davis?"

"Maybe," Sonia Davis said.

Defense attorney Daniel Hernandez got her to admit that she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

But she wasn't much help to the defense, either.

"Isn't it a fact, ma'am, that if you do not acknowledge the accuracy of your previous testimony, that you are afraid that you are going to jail?" Hernandez asked.

She shook her head no.

Harvey Davis' brother, Joe Wells, was of no help to his brother, either. Wells let slip that his 44-year-old brother is a convicted felon, something jurors shouldn't have heard.

The judge denied the defense's motion for a mistrial. The trial is expected to last until Thursday.

Fossett once wrote in a letter that she and Davis were "two old souls" destined to love each other. But she also wrote about how a drunken Davis abused her. On June 28, 2004, she told Davis he had a day to move out, reported an acquaintance.

Sometime that night, authorities say, an alcohol- and Xanax-fueled Harvey Davis choked Fossett to death.

Her mother, Marsha Allen, had to leave the courtroom when she accidentally glanced at a crime scene photo of her daughter, who was found dead in a recliner.

Fossett, 47, is remembered as a woman who beat cancer of the adrenal glands, saved her younger brother from drowning and aided those who called 911 for help.

"Debbie could save everyone," her mother told a family member during a break. "Except herself."