Davis trial to begin

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; After 12 years of waiting, today is a relief for those closest to the Rena Davis murder case.

The murder trial of Davis&8217; ex-husband William Terry Davis is set to start this morning with jury selection.

&8220;You would never think this day was going to come,&8221; Rena&8217;s sister Lisa Ferrill said Monday. &8220;It&8217;s a huge relief.&8221;

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Terry Davis was arrested in January, the culmination of a yearlong second look into the case by the Adams County Sheriff&8217;s Office cold case unit.

Rena was found beaten to death in the bedroom of her Oakland Drive home in May 1994.

Ferrill said the family suspected Rena&8217;s ex-husband from the start, but no arrest was made until this year.

&8220;It is a sense of relief after 12 years to have this case to go to trial,&8221; ACSO Maj. Jody Waldrop said.

Waldrop investigated the murder in 1994 with the Natchez Police, and led the cold case unit&8217;s recent investigation.

&8220;The sheriff&8217;s office along with other agencies are prepared to go to trial with this case,&8221; Waldrop said Monday. &8220;We hope justice prevails.&8221;

Today&8217;s trial will not deal with arson charges Terry Davis also faces in connection with a March 1994 fire at Rena&8217;s house.

Because the alleged arson occurred separately from the murder, this case doesn&8217;t meet the criteria to be tried as a death penalty case, District Attorney Ronnie Harper said. In Mississippi only murders committed in conjuction with another felony, against law enforcement officers, with use of explosives, for hire on school property qualify for the death penalty.

There is the possibility that Terry Davis broke into Rena&8217;s home the night he allegedly killed her, making it a two-offense crime, but Harper said there wasn&8217;t enough evidence to prove that.

&8220;We weren&8217;t confident we could prove it was capital murder,&8221; he said.

If convicted Davis faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole until age 65.

Harper said the trial could last anywhere from three to five days.

Jury selection is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. today. Sixth Circuit Judge Forrest &8220;Al&8221; Johnson will preside.