A Spokane man recently arrested for a 2007 slaying that authorities previously considered solved pleaded innocent Thursday to murder charges.
The homicide case against Julio J. Davila comes as Jeramie R. Davis, an admitted thief convicted on largely circumstantial evidence in the beating death, remains jailed awaiting the outcome of an investigation that police have said could exonerate him of the murder.
DNA found on the baseball bat used to kill Sprague Avenue adult bookstore owner John Gordon Allen Jr., 74, in 2007 was recently identified as Davila’s, creating a legal conundrum in which authorities say it’s possible the wrong man was given a 45-year prison term for a murder he didn’t commit.
But because a Spokane County Superior Court jury convicted Davis – despite his insistence that he did not kill Allen – and a state appeals court upheld the verdict, authorities are trying to figure out how to proceed.
“I would guess that we’re going to have to proceed cautiously here,” said Davila’s public defender, Thomas Krzyminski.
Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy said police still are investigating whether Davila, 45, and Davis acted together. He said Davis does not currently have a lawyer because his case has already been adjudicated.
“In all honesty, I don’t know what would go on from his point of view from this point forward,” Nagy said. He added that Davis’ 45-year prison sentence included seven years for his undisputed conviction for trafficking in stolen property.
Davis, who admits to stealing from Allen’s store but insists he was not involved in the killing, denied knowing Davila in an interview with The Spokesman-Review from the Spokane County Jail. Davila has also denied knowing Davis, according to police.
Krzyminski said he doesn’t believe there’s enough evidence to support the new charges against his client.
“The jury knew about the unidentified DNA and obviously did not think it created any type of reasonable doubt about Mr. Davis committing that murder. They convicted him. They didn’t say ‘he was only a burglar or thief’; they convicted him of murder,” Krzyminski said.
But jurors who heard the case in 2008 now have doubts.
Elk resident Sandra Hiller, 56, watched the trial as an alternate juror but did not participate in deliberations. She said she would have voted to convict at the time, but that Davila’s recent arrest raises new doubts.
“To say now unquestionably that (Davis) committed murder? You couldn’t do that,” Hiller said.
But she doesn’t believe anyone made a mistake.
“I feel really bad if the wrong person was convicted, but with everything that was presented it certainly did not look like that was the case at the time,” Hiller said.
Juror Kimberly J. Smith, 54, who voted to convict Davis after his February 2008 trial, said she didn’t feel the presence of the unknown DNA outweighed circumstantial evidence tying Davis to the crime, such as the theft and his multiple visits to the scene.
She said she “doesn’t know what to think” about Davila’s arrest.
“It was very hard being a juror,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to do it again, especially when it comes out like this three years later.”
Smith said jurors were troubled by the lack of DNA evidence but said the gloves found in Davis’ car were offered as an explanation. Davis appealed his conviction based on the argument that his lawyer, Jeff Leslie, should have argued to exclude the gloves, which contained no blood evidence connecting Davis to Allen’s death. But the appeal was denied.
Allen’s nephew, Jason Kazmark, said Thursday that he believes Davis and Davila acted together.
“I knew there was somebody else involved,” Kazmark said. “These guys set him up, and I’m not going to let them get away with it.”
Kazmark said he has “zero” concern that Davis may have been wrongfully convicted but is angry that it took so long to identify Davila as a suspect.
“I want this guy to hang,” Kazmark said. “He got four years of freedom.”