In November of 1994, a Fulton County jury found a Heber Springs man guilty of capital murder and recommended his sentence be life in prison without parole. He has now submitted a plea for executive clemency and will present his case to an Arkansas Parole Board in August. In a legal announcement of the event, the Board is asking for input from the public whether or not they should recommend clemency to Governor Beebe.
The trial of Lynn O. Davis, who was 28 at the time of the trial, was moved to Fulton County on a change of venue due to publicity surrounding the case. Davis and Catherine Michelle Wilson were charged in the March 1994 death of Wilson's son, Michael Wilson.
Wilson's trial was held in Independence County where a jury found her guilty of second-degree murder. She was given a sentence of 18 years in the Department of Corrections. Wilson, who was 21 at the time of the conviction in 1994, has since been released on supervised parole according to Netlink, a Web site that keeps track of people who have been convicted and sent to prison.
According to the appeal court documents, shortly after midnight on March 4, 1994, Lynn Davis and his girlfriend, Michelle Wilson, arrived at the emergency room of the Cleburne County Memorial Hospital. With them was Wilson's 23-month-old son, Michael, who was in cardiac arrest and not breathing. His heartbeat was initially revived but the child did not regain consciousness. He was transported by helicopter to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock where he died March 6.
The attending physician at the Cleburne County hospital believed that Michael suffered a subdural hematoma and had possibly been the victim of child abuse and contacted authorities. The physician said that in addition to the head injury Michael had bruises and sores on his body.
The report notes that Wilson and Davis arrived at Children's Hospital around 4 a.m. and remained until around noon that same day. They then drove back to Heber Springs to pick up a change of clothes and returned to Little Rock that same afternoon. When they returned, Davis was refused entry to the hospital. Security personnel told Davis that Michael's father was at the hospital and they wanted to avoid trouble. Wilson stayed at the hospital and Davis returned to Heber Springs. While enroute to Heber Springs, Wilson phoned Davis on his cell phone and told him she was being accused of inflicting Michael's injuries and that the Department of Human Services had taken custody of her children and that she had been "kicked-out" of the hospital. The report says that Davis returned to the hospital to pick up Wilson and the two spent the night at a Conway hotel. The couple phoned a neighbor of Wilson who told them the police were looking for them.
Davis and Wilson left the state the next day traveling to Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico. When they learned that Michael had died, the report says they abandoned Davis' vehicle at the El Paso airport and flew to San Diego. There, they took a train to Los Angeles where they visited the beach, the zoo and planned to visit Disneyland. On March 16, the FBI found the couple who were turned over to Santa Monica police.
Dr. Michael Avant, a pediatric intensive care physician at Children's Hospital, testified at the trial that Michael had 27 injuries, including a subural hematoma, massive brain swelling caused by trauma and oxygen depletion, retinal hemorrhaging, a pulmonary contusion, a broken rib, burns consistent with being inflicted by a cigarette and a car lighter, a swollen and bruised testicle and scrotal sac, including a bruise in this area which was just a few hours old.
During the trial, photos of the autopsy were presented to the jury. The pictures showed scars and sores on the child's belly button, calf, thigh and toes characterized as cigarette burns by Dr. Frank Peretti who prepared the child's autopsy report. The pictures also revealed bruises around the child's head and neck. Peretti testified that some of the cigarettes burns where less than 10 days old. The doctor testified that Michael's injuries were consistent with being shaken and two days later, being subjected to significant trauma within a short time before his admission to the hospital. He characterized the type of trauma necessary to inflict such a head injury as a "violent force." Peretti said the brain swelling was of the type that might be seen in a car accident.
The legal notice states that anyone who wishes to comment or express opinions on this application for executive clemency may write to the Area Release Manager, Department of Community Corrections, P.O. Box 8707, Pine Bluff, AR 71611. Responses must be received prior to Aug. 24.
More information about the case can be found at www.courts.state.ar.us/opinions/1996a/96.... The appeal decision made by the Supreme Court of Arkansas, delivered June 24, 1996, can be read at this Web address.