Justice arrives 24 years later

Rosemary Davis killed a teenager in '83 and disappeared. She gets 15 years.

Published May 11, 2007

TAMPA - Prosecutors said Rosemary Davis deserved 30 years in prison for killing a teenage girl outside a notorious Tampa bar and eluding police for 23 years.

Davis' defense attorney argued she deserved only 10 years because she is HIV positive and deeply regrets her actions.

On Thursday, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles sentenced Davis to 15 years in prison.

"The journey ends here, some 23 years later," Battles said.

Davis, 49, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in March. She was the first person captured by the newly formed Tampa police cold case squad last year.

According to court testimony, the shooting occurred outside the Rabbit's Foot Bar on Lake Avenue and 29th Street, nicknamed the "Buckets of Blood Bar" because violence was so common there. The bar closed in the early 1980s.

Assistant State Attorney Stephen Udagawa said Davis got into a fight with three women over clothes.

Davis said she felt threatened by a group of women and fired into the air to scare them away.

The bullet struck and killed 15-year-old Lisa Davis, who was not related.

Then Rosemary Davis disappeared. Police searched for years. They say she went to Fort Myers and then Georgia.

In May 2006, she showed up at her sister's home in Tampa. Udagawa said she returned to Florida seeking medical treatment after testing positive for HIV.

An informant tipped off police, who arrested her the next day.

The victim's mother, Catherine Davis, was in court Thursday to confront her daughter's killer and ask the judge for the maximum penalty.

"When you kill someone, you don't just kill them," Catherine Davis said, her voice shaking with emotion. "You also do it to the whole family."

The victim's daughter, Alicia Harris, who was eight months old at the time of the shooting, said she never recovered from the loss. She always wondered what her life would be like if her mother was still alive.

"It means everything to me," said Harris, 24. "It still bothers me that I don't have a mother to talk to about things."

Davis' attorney, Anna Frederiksen-Cherry, said her client deserved leniency because she took responsibility for her actions and was deeply remorseful.

Frederiksen-Cherry also called a psychologist who testified Rosemary Davis was beginning to show signs of dementia related to her HIV status.

Rosemary Davis read a brief statement to the court, begging for forgiveness.

"Over and over I say to myself, I wish that night had never come," she said.

"I know I can't bring her back, but I am asking the family to please, please forgive me. When she died, a part of me died, too."

But Udagawa said Rosemary Davis' actions told a different story.

"Twenty-three years of no justice for them," he said. "Twenty-three years of no closure for them."

Carrie Weimar can be reached at 813 226-3416 or cweimar@sptimes.com.