A man suspected in the 2010 disappearance of one Spokane woman and the 2012 killing of another has been denied parole by Idaho officials.
Robert G. Davis, 48, must remain in prison for his conviction stemming from a 2014 attack against a Coeur d’Alene woman who was twice choked into unconsciousness. He appeared last week before the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole. According to people who attended the hearing, Davis sought early release from his 15-year sentence for burglary and assault with sexual motivation. He told commissioners that he already had secured housing.
However, the board, which received letters objecting to Davis’ release from the family of 20-year-old Kala Williams, rejected Davis’ request for early release and delayed his next parole hearing until 2024.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Jackie Forney, of Clayton, Washington. She is the mother of Heather Higgins, who was 39 when she disappeared on Sept. 20, 2010, after accepting a ride from Davis. “This is not somebody you want in your neighborhood.”
Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor Jed Whitaker said he also sent a written letter objecting to Davis’ release.
“I think we can hold him until 2029. I’ll appear and object any time he appears for parole,” Whitaker said. “He’s a bad guy.”
While Davis remains in custody on the one conviction from Idaho, he has escaped prosecution in Washington despite reports linking him to attacks against three different women.
In 2007, Dawn Sandell reported to Spokane police that she had been choked unconscious and raped by Davis. The case was investigated, but it wasn’t forwarded to prosecutors until 2013 and formal charges were never filed.
Then in 2010, Sandell, who died last year at the age of 47, gave Davis’ phone number to Heather Higgins. Higgins, a neighbor, was trying to get a ride to her bank to secure a loan necessary to keep a rental agreement in place, Forney said in a previous interview.
Davis arrived that day in a blue minivan with fake wood paneling on the sides. Higgins got inside and was never seen again.
Then on May 13, 2012, the remains of 20-year-old Kala Williams were found near 14th Avenue and Lindeke Street. Williams had been cut in two and someone stuffed her lower half into a sleeping bag.
Tests were done on underwear found in the sleeping bag, on material under Williams’ fingernails and on black electrical tape wrapped around Williams’ neck. All came back as DNA matches to Davis.
A few weeks after Williams’ remains were discovered, Davis’ mother, Sherri Cook, 71, called and told detectives that her son had admitted helping dispose of Higgins’ body in 2010, which he had stuffed in a sleeping bag, somewhere north of Spokane. Her body has never been found.
Police in 2016 checked pawn shop records and found where Davis had hocked six rings the day after Higgins disappeared in 2010.
While the DNA from the Williams crime scene came back to Davis, he has never been charged in connection with her death.
Spokane police forwarded the investigation to Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell early last year seeking to charge Davis with first-degree murder, but those charges have never been filed.
Haskell and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla both returned initial phone calls this week but did not respond to questions Friday about why Davis has not yet been charged in connection with Williams’ death.
Kala Williams’ first cousin, Julie Beauchaine, who sometimes cared for Williams, said she blames the lack of charges on the manner of death ruling by Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. John Howard.
Howard found drugs in Williams’ system and ruled the death as “undetermined” under the theory that Williams might have died from a drug overdose before someone cut her body in two.
“I’ve been stonewalled everywhere,” Beauchaine said. “Kala is going to get the crappy end of the deal because the city is not going to want to look at all these other cases” where Howard made questionable rulings.
“We are not getting anywhere,” she said. Williams “flat out is not going to get justice.”
Beauchaine attended the parole hearing last week for Davis. During the hearing, Davis admitted knowing and having relations with both Higgins and Williams, but he denied involvement in their killings, she said.
Cook, Davis’ mother, said she did not get a notice about his parole hearing. She previously expressed hope for justice for both the Higgins and Williams families.
“I’d like to see everything settled,” Cook said. “I wish that he could go to court on these other charges and get that settled one way or the other. It just sort of hangs out there like a ghost.”
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