A death row inmate who killed a Clay County woman and raped her daughter has died in prison.
Donald Davidson, 41, died while assigned to Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, according to a Florida Department of Corrections spokesperson.
Multiple sources told News4JAX that Davidson’s death is being investigated as a suicide, and the medical examiner in the Eighth Judicial Circuit later confirmed that the preliminary autopsy lists the manner of death as suicide.
“Under Florida law, the district Medical Examiner is required to determine the cause of death for any person who dies in a prison or penal institution. Autopsy results and cause and manner of death determinations are releasable only by the district Medical Examiner,” the FDOC spokesperson said Wednesday in a statement to News4JAX.
In 2014, Davidson, a convicted sex offender on probation, cut off his ankle monitor and then strangled and stabbed to death family friend Roseann Welsh, 37, in her Middleburg home. He kidnapped and sexually assaulted her 10-year-old daughter before she got away.
It was an unusual prosecution, in that Davidson pleaded guilty to the charges and opted for a non-jury penalty phase. The defense presented mitigating factors that included childhood abuse and neglect. The judge found that the aggravating circumstances, like the horrendous nature of the crimes, outweighed the mitigating factors and handed Davidson the death penalty in 2019.
Davidson’s lawyers appealed the death sentence, arguing the judge didn’t give the mitigating factors sufficient weight. The state Supreme Court denied the initial appeal last July.
Welsh’s husband and the girl’s father, Michael Scott, told News4JAX that Davidson’s death in custody does bring some relief, but his family has not gotten justice.
“Good riddance,” Scott said. “That’s all I can say. Am I supposed to feel some kind of heartfelt sympathy for the man? No, I don’t. And I won’t. Neither will my kids. My daughter doesn’t have to live in fear anymore. My daughter doesn’t have to sit there and think it’s going to get out because he gets to appeal his case in the state of Florida.”
He noted his daughter, now almost 18, lives with the trauma but is coping as best as she can. His son, now 21, discovered his mother’s body.
“My daughter is resilient. She is a very strong young woman,” Scott said, noting that she is about to graduate from high school and is planning to attend a technical school with hopes of helping law enforcement catch child predators.
Scott said his family’s tragedy was preventable. Davidson was convicted of molesting a child in 2010 and was released to house arrest in 2014, months before killing Welsh and abducting her daughter.
“What could’ve been done differently?” Scott asked. “They could’ve prosecuted him properly. By the laws are been put in place.”
Scott is calling on lawmakers to help make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
“I’m still here,” he said. “I’m still gonna kick. My kids are gonna live. And they’re gonna see that they had a father that was there for them the whole time through thick and thin just as much as they were there for me.”