Prosecutor, family of woman murdered by sex offender describe trauma

Clay County judge will decide whether Donald Davidson should live or die

An emotional day in court: a sexual predator who killed a Clay County mom and raped her daughter is closer to learning his sentence.

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The sexual predator who killed a Middleburg woman and sexually assaulted her daughter in 2014 will soon know whether he will be sentenced to death or life in prison.

Donald Davidson Jr. pleaded guilty last month to killing 37-year-old Roseann Welsh in her Middleburg home five years ago. Evidence presented during a sentencing hearing in Clay County on Monday and Tuesday will be taken into consideration by Circuit Judge Don Lester.

Investigators said Davidson had cut off his GPS monitor while on controlled release from prison when he strangled, stabbed and killed Welsh in her Middleburg home. After killing Welsh, investigators said Davidson stole her minivan, kidnapped and sexually assaulted her daughter before letting her go.

Prosecutors said before Welsh died, she heard her daughter’s school bus pull up outside. They said she screamed while she was fighting for her life, knowing she was dying, but also that her daughter was about to walk into their home, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

Welsh’s son, who found her body in their Middleburg home, stood before the judge Monday and described how that day in 2014 changed his life.

While reading his victim impact statement aloud, he said he is constantly reminded of what happened to his mother and sister. Welsh’s son also said the anger boils up inside of him to the point where he wants to explode. He told the judge he wants all of this to be over so his family can start to heal.

Other family members, including Welsh’s aunt and husband, wrote impact statements that were read in court.

“My family was devastated by the murder and it shook my faith in God which I am still struggling with today. 2014 was a terrible year,” Welsh’s aunt wrote. "Her murder was like a gut punch that has destroyed my family forever.”

“The loss of my wife, Roseann, has resulted in the loss of my pride, my honor, and my dignity. As a man, I isolate myself from others now because I feel like I am a failure to the system of things. I feel undermined, angry, and abandoned. This is how the loss of my wife, Roseann, has impacted me. No words can describe it, but I am doing my best,” wrote Welsh’s husband.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who is personally handling this case, said the level of detail given about Welsh's death was necessary to demonstrate that it was a violent attack.

“He strangled her with so much force, the capillaries in her cheeks burst, the blood vessels in her eyes and eyelids ruptured, the muscles in her neck hemorrhaged,” Nelson said.

The State Attorney’s Office is pushing for Davidson to be put to death. 

Davidson's defense argues for life term

While the crimes Davidson pleaded guilty to were described as horrendous even by his own defense team, they believe the proper sentence for his client is life without the possibility of parole.

A relative revealed in open court Tuesday that Davidson's conception was the result of an affair and by the time he was age 10, he was living with two registered sex offenders. His childhood home was described as one where people were constantly coming and going and there was abuse at the hands of certain family members.

Davidson had talked about hearing voices, once saying he saw a ghost.

An immediate family member testified that both he and Davidson were sexually abused by a female family member when they were too young to know it was wrong. He said they did not tell anyone about it until after the woman was killed in a DUI crash.

Dr. Robert Ouaou, a neurologist hired by the defense to evaluate and test Davidson, testified that he believes there are significant defects in both Davidson's frontal lobe and limbic system, which could cause problems regulating impulses and emotions.

Ouaou said he does not believe Davidson has an anti-social personality disorder. 

Davidson once told the judge he had been treated for what he called a “schizo disease” and that he was using cocaine at the time of the murder.

It will be up to Lester to make the final ruling after he hears from all witnesses. The final defense witness in the sentencing hearing will be heard July 1, followed by closing arguments.

It's uncertain when the judge will make his decision. 

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.