Zachary Davis was 15 years old when he murdered his mother with a sledgehammer and attempted to murder his brother by setting fire to the house. Zachary had a history of mental illness, but no one could have predicted what he did.

Zachary Davis
Zachary Davis at trial (credit :Morbidology)

Zachary Davis was described as anything but normal, whispering every spoken word as if trying to hide his true voice.

August 10, 2012, began like any other day for Zachary Davis’ family until midnight when Zachary bludgeoned his mother to death and set fire to the family home in an attempt to destroy evidence and kill his brother. The incident shocked everyone, and even the courts debated whether the young man was pure evil or disturbed.

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The Death of A Loved One

Zachary Davis was born on July 27, 1997, to Melaine and Chris Davis, who also had a one-year-old son, Josh. Zachary was always a quiet child with a history of mental illness. When he was nine years old, his father, Chris, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Zachary became depressed after his father died and was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.

Zachary Davis Mugshot
Zachary Davis Mugshot

According to Zachary’s paternal grandmother, he was taken to Dr. Bradley Freeman at Vanderbilt University Medical Center shortly after his father’s death. The psychiatrist told the family that he suffered from some kind of mental defect.

Zachary said he heard voices and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression, and although Zachary was normally calm, he was eventually losing everything.

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Zachary went through two common phases, including numbness and depression, but failed to reach phase three: recovery. His mother pulled him out of the clinic shortly after the start of his recovery, which was the reason his grandmother gave at the trial that “given the murders, this would not have happened if Zachary had received adequate medical care.”

In one of his sessions, Zachary told Dr. Freeman that he frequently heard the voice of his father, who died in 2007. He also told Dr. Freeman that on August 10, 2012, his father’s voice told him to murder his mother. However, psychologists described Zachary’s situation as normal, as people descend into depression at a young age after the death of close friends.

The Night of Horror

While his mother worked hard as a paraplegic and trained as a triathlete, she did her best to survive the death of her husband, she tried everything to keep the boys happy, but she did not know that his youngest son was beyond her grasp.

Zachary often spoke in a monotone whisper and wore the same hoodie every day. He had an app on his phone about serial killers and another that listed torture devices. “You can’t spell slaughter without laughter,” the anecdote at the start of his notebook.

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However, Zachary was not known to be outwardly violent until the night of August 10, 2012.

Zachary, his 16-year-old brother, and his mother went to a movie together. When they returned, Zachary packed several items into a backpack and satchel, including clothes, notebooks, toothbrushes, gloves, a ski mask, and a claw hammer. It seemed like he wanted to run away from home, but in reality, there was something sinister at play.

Melanie went to bed at 9 pm. While she was asleep, her youngest son Zachary took the sledgehammer out of the basement and entered her room. He beat her to death and beat her almost 20 times.

Then, covered in blood, he closed her door, went into the family’s playroom, and soaked the house with whiskey and gasoline before setting it on fire. He closed the door and fled the house.

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He set the house on fire with the intention of killing his brother Josh, but because he closed the door to the playroom, the fire did not spread, and all his planning went in vain, his brother was awakened by the fire alarm. When Josh went to pick up his mother, he found her dead.

Josh escaped the fire and Zachary was found by the authorities nearly 10 miles away from his home. He told authorities that “I didn’t feel anything when I killed her.”

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Arrest and Trial of Zachary Davis

Zachary Davis explained how the voice of his father told him to kill his mother in a videotaped confession presented as evidence to the court.

When a detective asked Zachary if he would carry out the attack if he could go back in time, Zachary said: ‘I would probably kill Josh with a sledgehammer as well.’

“Did he(his father, Chris) tell you to do anything specific to your mother?” Defense attorney Randy Lucas asked him during the trial.

Zachary said no and showed no remorse when investigators presented him with pictures of his mother’s blood-soaked body. In fact, he didn’t show any remorse at all.

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“I was worried that I’d miss,” Zachary said when asked why he chose the sledgehammer as his murder weapon, explaining that the tool gave him the “highest chance of killing her.”

During the trial, the jury was also presented with Zachary’s interview with Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil asked, “Why did you kill her?” and Zachary said, “She wasn’t taking care of my family.”

He started laughing as he described how large and heavy the murder weapon was, and described the sound the sledgehammer made when it connected his mother’s head “it was a wet thumping sound.”

“I wanted to make sure she was dead,” Zachary said when asked about why he hit his mother multiple times.

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He even tried to blame the murder of his brother. This claim surprised the defense attorney, who openly admitted that Zachary David had killed his mother with a sledgehammer.

That claim did not help his case and also ruined the defense’s chance of getting a lenient sentence for Davis.

“You became evil, Mr. Davis, you went to the dark side. It’s that plain and simple.”

Judge Dee David Gay said to Zachary Davis.
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Davis claimed that he was raped by his brother

Lisa House, a retired Sumner County Sheriff’s deputy, read a handwritten confession discovered in one of Davis’ notebooks during his arrest. Davis claims in an Aug. 10 entry that his older brother raped him shortly after the family moved to Hendersonville.

“I was raped that day by him, and I’ve been planning to kill him ever since,” the journal entry stated.

Davis writes in an Aug. 11 entry, “I killed Melanie and left Josh alone to suffer… I didn’t have any feelings… I felt no remorse… My only genuine regret was that I did not give her a faster death. I didn’t want her to be in pain.”

In his video tapped interviews with Major Don Linzy, he told Linzy that he killed his mom at around 11 p.m. and he struck his mother in the head with the sledgehammer at least 12 times. He said that he choose the sledgehammer because he was worried that he’d miss, and it gave him the highest chance of killing her.

When asked if he would do it again, he said yes. He told the detectives that if given the opportunity, he would kill his brother with a sledgehammer as well. When they inquired about the rape allegations Davis makes against his brother in his confession. He tells them that his brother raped him and that he didn’t tell anyone else except his mother, who did nothing about it.

However, Josh said that he loved his brother and had learned of the rape accusation only after his mother was killed.

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Zachary Davis Now?

The 12-member jury grappled with the notion that while Zachary had clearly committed the murder of his mother with intent, it was also obvious that he was deeply unwell.

Zachary Davis Now
Zachary Davis Now

Dr. Phil tried to show compassion towards the teenager “When I look in your eyes, I don’t see evil, I see lost.”

Zachary Davis’s paternal grandmother, Gail Cron appealed to his severe mental illness and the lack of help he received. She said that it wouldn’t have happened it Zachary wasn’t pulled out of his recovery. “Every teacher, every guide counselor should have to stand in trial with Zach.”

Cron said. “Zach is not a monster. He’s a child who made a horrible mistake.”

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She believes that his mother, Melanie failed to get Zachary the help he needed and that Melanie paid the mistake for her life.

Dr. Freeman, who first diagnosed him, also testified in court that his “judgment was driven by his psychosis,” and he could not have premeditated the murder due to his mental illness.

But the jury did not feel the same as Dr. Freeman and Cron, and Zachary was sentenced to life in prison after a jury took only three hours to reach a guilty verdict.

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Zachary Davis Today

A life sentence in Tennessee is for a minimum of 60 years with the possibility of parole after 51 years. Zachary would be in his 60’s by the time he could get out of prison.

After a four day trial, Zachary was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment plus another 20 years for the attempted murder of his brother. “I think that Zach Davis is a little bit smarter and a little bit wilier than we give him credit for,” announced Sumner Country District Attorney Ray Whitely following the sentencing phase.

The true motive behind the murders is still unknown.