Clay County killer, child rapist sentenced to death

Donald Davidson Jr. pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping, rape

Donald Davidson Jr. pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping, rape.

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – A sexual predator who killed a Middleburg woman and then kidnapped and raped her 10-year-old daughter in 2014 was sentenced to death Wednesday morning in Clay County.

Donald Davidson Jr. pleaded guilty earlier this year to killing 37-year-old Roseann Welsh (pictured, below) in her Middleburg home five years ago.

Circuit Judge Don Lester considered evidence presented during a sentencing hearing in Clay County in June and handed down a sentence of death for Davidson.

"Her husband and her children miss her dearly and there is a huge hole in our family," Welsh's aunt, Kim Hajaistron, said after the sentence was announced. "The wheels of justice do move slowly, but everyone has been very thorough, and they wanted to make sure that every opportunity was given for all the facts to come out."

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 on Dec. 1, 2014. After killing Welsh, investigators said Davidson stole her minivan and kidnapped and sexually assaulted her daughter before letting the child 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, described during the sentencing hearing in June how that day in 2014 changed his life.

According to the State Attorney's Office, Davidson had known Welsh's husband since childhood, and when Welsh's son returned home the day of the murder, Davidson locked him out of the house, told him his mother wasn't home and convinced him to go to a friend's house down the street.

When Welsh's son came home later, he found his mother dead on the bathroom floor and his mother's van and his younger sister missing.

Police later found the girl running down a dirt road toward her home. She said Davidson raped her in the home and then took her in the van to several areas in Clay County where he performed other sex acts on her before he dropped her off near the home.

Davidson was caught after a manhunt and eventually pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, attempted sexual battery of a victim over 12 years old, four counts of sexual battery on a victim younger than 12 years old, lewd or lascivious molestation, kidnapping and grand theft auto. When arrested, Davidson already had a long criminal history and was a convicted sexual predator. In 2005, Davidson was convicted of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 12. In 2010, he was convicted of committing aggravated battery on a pregnant woman. 

While reading his victim impact statement aloud during the sentencing hearing, Welsh's son 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 wanted all of this to be over so his family can start to heal.

"Her kids, I call them teen titans because they are amazing. Her son and her daughter are amazing, amazing people from what they have gone through," Kim Hajaistron said. 

After Davidson was condemned to death, Welsh's family thanked prosecutors and investigators for their work in the case and said the support of the community and victim's advocates have helped their family survive the ordeal.

“This case shocked the conscience of Clay County -- a kidnapping of a child and rape and murder of her mother. Today brings an end to at least one chapter of the ongoing nightmare for Rosie Welsh’s children, her husband and family,” State Attorney Melissa Nelson said.

Welsh's uncle, Michael Hajaistron, said while they are not sure if they can ever completely heal, family members are sure of who they lost nearly five years ago.

"Like a butterfly, she was sweet. She was gentle. She was kind," he said of Welsh.

Davidson's lead attorney said he plans to appeal the death sentence. 

"It's in the hands of God now," Michael Hajaistron said.

About the Authors:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.