Suspects traveled two paths to trouble
By ANGELA MOORE and JEFF TESTERMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 12, 1998
AMPA -- Adam Davis was abandoned by his mother when he was an
infant. At 15, the father he idolized was killed in a motorcycle
crash. At 16, he already had an arrest record, and social workers
called him "a throw-away child."
Now, at 19, Adam Davis is charged with first-degree murder in
the death of his girlfriend's mother, Vicki Robinson.
Davis' friends describe a troubled but caring youth who would
do anything for his friends and his girlfriend, 15-year-old Valessa
"Adam had a hard life," said one friend, Josh Moon, 15. "What
kept him sane was Valessa. Adam would do anything for her. They
were like a Romeo and Juliet for the '90s."
But despite Davis' string of arrests for crimes ranging from car
theft to burglary, his friends say they cannot believe he could
be a murderer. They insist that whatever happened at 4221 Cartnal
Ave. in the early hours of June 27 was not planned.
"People need to understand that these are not crazy drugged-up
teenagers," said Jose Castillo, 18.
Investigators have said all three teens admitted taking part in
the killing after they were captured in Texas on July 2. But Davis
said Friday that neither he, Whispel nor Valessa did anything
to hurt Robinson.
"Me and her mom got along great," Davis told a WFTS-Ch. 28 reporter
in a telephone interview. "I would never have a reason to hurt
"My greatest fear right now is losing Valessa. We consider ourselves
family. She's pretty much all I got right now."
* * *
Adam William Davis was born in Little Rock, Ark., on Dec. 10,
1978, to Kenneth Rory Davis and Tamara Still. Still left the family
soon after. Davis, a mechanic, moved to Florida and was the sole
parent for Adam until he remarried in 1984 in Pasco County.
He struggled with his willful son, but the bond between father
and son appears to have been strong.
"My father and I were really close, more like best friends," Adam
Davis said in the television interview. "He was a good man, and
I just want to be like him."
On Jan. 6, 1994, Ken Davis was killed when the motorcycle he was
riding crashed into a guardrail on an exit ramp from the Crosstown
Expressway in Tampa. An autopsy showed that he had a blood alcohol
level of 0.24, three times the legal limit, and found traces of
benzodiazepines -- a class of depressants that includes Xanax,
Valium and Halcion, which should not be taken with alcohol.
Adam Davis got a tattoo of a cross on his right arm to honor his
father. It reads, "In memory of K.D."
Davis' life deteriorated after his father's death. "I went through
a real bad depression stage," he said. "I was using a lot of drugs
A little more than a year after Ken Davis died, Health and Rehabilitative
Services in Pasco County picked up a homeless Adam Davis, then
16, and placed him in foster care. According to an HRS report,
Davis had been abandoned again, this time by his stepmother, Donna
Elliott Davis, and her family.
The Elliotts told HRS officials they had tried everything to help
Davis. He had lived with his stepmother and two stepuncles, Steve
and Tom Elliott, but had stolen cars and money and run away from
Steve Elliott said that Davis was "a loose cannon" at the time.
"There was a bunch of people that loved him," Elliott said. "We
just don't know what happened."
After Davis was arrested in both Pasco and Hillsborough counties
in 1995 for stealing cars, a judge appointed a guardian to represent
him because he was on his own at 16.
In December 1995, Davis appeared in a Pasco County court for sentencing
on one of the car theft charges. The judge decided that Davis
should be sent to Oregon to live with his mother, Tamara, whom
he hadn't spoken with since he was 13.
Davis spent the next 11/2 years with his mother. Davis' friends
say that although he raved about his father, he never mentioned
his mother. "He didn't like talking about his past," Josh Moon
said, but he added that Davis told his friends he straightened
out in Oregon and even went to church.
Oregon records show that on March 1, 1997, Davis was charged with
burglary in Lincoln County, on the central coast of the state,
after he broke into a business and stole money. Three weeks later,
he was arrested again, this time for stealing a motorcycle. Davis
got 18 months probation for both charges.
In early June, his probation officer reported that Davis had vanished.
A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Davis next showed up in Rapid City in western South Dakota. His
mother's sister, Tara Ghost, lived there in a trailer park, and
Davis moved in with her.
John Ingalls, the trailer park's manager, remembers Davis. "Adam
was a little wild," he said. "You had to watch him. Tara tried
to discipline him, but it didn't do much good."
Ingalls said around the end of July 1997, Davis disappeared in
his aunt's car. He resurfaced in Tampa.
For a few weeks, Davis lived with the family of Shana Clark, an
old girlfriend. Clark recalls how poorly Davis slept. "He used
to wake up crying," she said. "He didn't like to talk about it."
On Aug. 5, Davis talked a friend, Robert Stacy, into standing
lookout while he stole beer, liquor and money from a Beverage
King on Waters Avenue in Tampa. In a statement to the Sheriff's
Office, Stacy said, "Adam Davis thought of breaking into the drive-through.
I didn't want to, but he said yes."
Three days later, Clark came home to find her family's house surrounded
by police cars. They had come to arrest Davis for the Beverage
King robbery, and he would not come out of the house.
"He was saying that if they didn't let him talk to me, he would
kill himself with a kitchen knife," Clark said. "That's when I
noticed he was a little psychotic."
Davis spoke to Clark, then surrendered to police. Davis spent
a couple of weeks in jail.
Clark said she cut off contact with Davis after that day. "He's
a really troubled person," she said. "He's always needed someone
to be there for him to love him."
Soon, Davis met Valessa Robinson, who was then 14.
"Me and Valessa, it's like one of those things when you're young
and you wish you could meet somebody who's perfect for you," Davis
said in the WFTS-Ch. 28 interview. "The way I feel about Valessa
is, she's perfect for me. She's my soul mate."
Davis appears to have been living an itinerant existence. In October,
he and Jon Whispel were arrested on charges of breaking into a
vacant house at 8318 Drycreek Drive in Tampa. Police said the
two boys had been living in the house. Davis was sentenced to
Davis' relationship with Valessa deepened as this year progressed.
Friends said Valessa was trying to get pregnant, and the two planned
to run away and get married.
"They were leaving at the end of the summer," Moon said. "Adam
had gotten both of them new birth certificates, new identities.
They were going to go to Las Vegas and get married."
For Davis, getting married to Valessa and having a baby would
have given him what he says he always wanted -- a family and a
place to belong.
"We did want to get married for the past six months now," Davis
said Friday. "One day we will get married. The only thing I want
to do is settle down in a normal home and be like my father."
Sometime in the next few days, Adam Davis will return to Tampa
to face first-degree murder charges -- a crime punishable by death.
-- Times researcher John Martin and Staff Writer Susan Clary contributed
to this report.
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