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Zachary Davis was fifteen years old when he killed his mother with a sledgehammer and attempted to kill his brother by setting the house on fire.

Zachary Davis
Zachary Davis at trial (credit :Morbidology)

Zachary Davis was termed as pretty far from normal, he whispered every word spoke as if he was trying to cover his real voice. 

The 10th of August, 2012 started like any other day but by the following morning  Melanie Davis would be dead and her 15-year-old would be in police custody. The incident was so shocking to everyone that even the courts debated as to whether the young man was a pure evil or disturbed. 

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The Death of A Loved One

Zachary was born on 27th July 1997 to Melaine and Chris Davis, who also had a son, Josh, aged 1. 

Zachary Davis Mugshot
Zachary Davis Mugshot

Zachary was a quiet boy from the beginning who had a history of mental illness, when he was 9 years of age his father, Chris, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

After the death of his father, Zachary fell into depression and was sent to psychiatric treatment.

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

Zachary claimed to hear voices and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depressive disorder, Although Zach was normally quiet, he was eventually losing everything.

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In one of his sessions, he told Dr. Freeman that he hears the voice of his father. Psychologists termed Zachary’s situation normal as people at young age descend into depression after the death of loved ones.

Zachary went through two common phases including numbness and depression but failed to make the third phase: recovery.

His mother pulled him out of the recovery phase shortly after it began. This was the reason cited by his grandmother at his trial, that if Zachary received proper medical attention “this would not have happened”(considering the killings into account).

The Night of Horror

While his mother worked hard as a paralegal and trained as a triathlete. She did her best to get past the death of her husband, she tried everything to keep the boys happy, but she was unknown to the fact that his youngest son was beyond her grasp.

Zachary often spoke in a monotonous whisper and would wear the same hoodie every day. He had an app on his phone about the serial killers and another one that listed torture devices.

“You can’t spell slaughter without laughter,” was the anecdotes written at the beginning of his notebook.

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Zachary was not known to be outwardly violent, however, 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 clothing, notebooks, toothbrush, gloves, a ski mask, and a claw hammer.

It seemed like he was trying to run away from his home but in reality, something sinister was at play.

Melanie went to bed at 9 P.M. When she was asleep, her youngest son, Zachary, retrieved the sledgehammer from the basement and entered his mother’s room. He bludgeoned her to death and struck her nearly 20 times.

Then, covered in her mother’s blood, he closed her door, went to the family game room, and drenched the house in whiskey and gasoline before setting it on fire. He shut the door and fled the house.

He set the house on fire with the intention to kill his brother, Josh but because he closed the door to the game room, the fire didn’t spread, however, all his planing went in vain and his brother was awoken by the fire alarm. When Josh went to retrieve 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.”

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 that if he could go back in time, would he still carry out the attack, Zachary said that “I would probably kill Josh with a sledgehammer too.”

“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.

“I was worried that I’d miss,” said Zachary when asked about why he choose sledgehammer as a murder weapon. He further explained that this tool gave him the “highest chance of killing her.”

During the trial, the jury was also presented with Zachary’s interview on Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil asked, “Why did you kill her?” and Zachary said that “She wasn’t taking care of my family.”

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He started laughing when 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.

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

This claim didn’t help his case and also ruined the defense’s chance to try for 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.

Zachary Davis Now?

The 12-member Jury grappled with the notion that while Zachary had clearly premeditated his mother’s murder, it was also apparent 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 murdered due to his mental illness.

But the jury did not the 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.

Life sentence in Tennessee is for 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.

South Carolina Mother Accused of Setting Car on Fire with her 14-month-old Son Inside

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