A judge sentences the 36-year-old man to 40 years in prison as part of a plea agreement.
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001
LARGO -- Tamara Townsend woke up one night in 1999 and saw a man with a flashlight peering in at her.
In the days that followed, the Clearwater resident began to notice with unease the disappearance of some of her undergarments.
One day she locked herself out of her house. Robert Davis helpfully stepped forward and, using a knife, pried her back door open for her.
Davis was the man from the shadows. In the months to come, he returned to her home once more. This time, he nearly killed her.
On Wednesday, an unemotional Davis pleaded guilty to attempted murder, kidnapping and burglary charges for the 5:30 a.m. attack May 24 against Townsend. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
The judge offered him the plea deal to resolve the case. If convicted at trial, the 36-year-old faced life in prison without parole.
"The only reason I'm offering anything is to spare the victim from having to come back and testify at trial and relive the incident," the judge said.
The morning of the attack, Townsend noticed a man peeking in the windows of her house in west Clearwater.
She went outside the front door to confront him, realized he was a distant relative and called his name, police said.
As Townsend called to him, Davis ran to the rear of her home and broke in through a door. He went out the front door, and she ran toward a neighbor's to call police.
Davis, police said, grabbed Townsend from behind, dragged her to the rear of her house and began choking her.
She struggled and broke free, but he grabbed her again and took her behind a neighbor's house, where he pulled a knife and stabbed her several times, including once in the lower back.
Neighbors came outside, and Davis ran away.
Police searched for Davis, but could not find him right away. Deputies went to his house later to check on his wife and children and saw him get into his van.
Deputies pulled over the van at Hercules Street and Palm Avenue and found he had tried to commit suicide by drinking half a bottle of Liquid-Plumr and swallowing a bottle of Tylenol PM in his van.
He nearly succeeded. The Liquid-Plumr burned a large hole in his throat.
A tearful Townsend, who repeatedly referred to Davis as "that animal," told the judge that the attacked ruined her life and sense of security.
"I still remember that day over and over again in my head," said Townsend, 28, who has sinced moved outside of Florida. "It's like a headache that won't go away."
Davis has a history as a sex offender, prosecutors say.
In 1992, he burglarized two North Pinellas homes and assaulted two women while masturbating, they said. That same year, he was caught masturbating while looking in the bedroom window of another woman.
Pinellas prosecutor Scott Rossenwasser told the judge that Davis' criminal history includes convictions for burglary, exposing his sexual organs, battery and loitering and prowling.
Assistant Public Defender Tobias Pardue said Davis had successfully completed two years of house arrest followed by five years' probation on those charges before he was charged with the assault on Townsend.
Davis, who was in custody awaiting trial, did not explain to the judge his motives for the attack.