Randy O’Neal Davidson, 30, pleaded guilty to the capital murder of 62-year-old Diana Donahoo Rice of Shelby County.
St. Clair County Assistant District Attorney Carol Boone said in court Tuesday that the state’s evidence would show Davidson strangled the victim to death during the commission of a robbery.
She said Davidson was found in Birmingham with Rice’s car and with the victim’s blood on his clothes.
Authorities say Davidson left Rice’s lifeless body in a wooded area in the Prescott community of South St. Clair County.
Circuit Court Judge Jim Hill initially set a trial date for the week of Feb. 28, 2011, but because a plea agreement was reached by prosecutors and defense attorneys, a new trial date of Nov. 29 was set for the capital murder trial.
Prosecutors are required to present the state’s case to a jury in any capital murder case, despite Davidson’s admission of guilt.
Prosecutors must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the defendant committed the capital murder of Rice.
Davidson’s guilty plea is now a part of the state’s evidence, which will be presented to a jury at the end of the month.
Hill said in court Tuesday that because of the plea agreement, there will be no defense put on for Davidson.
The victim’s family and investigators involved in the case also signed off on the plea agreement.
Davidson is serving prison time on unrelated charges at the St. Clair Correctional Facility.
During a preliminary hearing May 2009, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Shelby O’Conner testified that Rice’s purse was found along Camp Winnataska Road, near where her body was eventually found.
O’Conner said Rice’s credit cards were still in her purse, but $400 the victim had withdrawn from her bank account two to three days prior to her disappearance was missing.
She testified that authorities in Shelby County were already looking for Davidson in an unrelated burglary, which occurred only a few miles from where the victim was last seen.
O’Conner said witnesses place Davidson at the residence where the victim was a caregiver for an elderly man.
Davidson was eventually apprehended at a North Birmingham truck stop, where authorities had found and staked out the victim’s car.
O’Conner testified at Davidson’s preliminary hearing last year that the suspect had told investigators during questioning that he was on methamphetamine and had not slept for eight to nine days, and it was possible he could have strangled the victim with the nylon card found 10-15 feet from the body. However, Davidson qualified his answers to authorities and never outright admitted to the murder until signing a plea agreement Tuesday, which may have spared him the death penalty.
At the time of his arrest, Davidson was also facing charges in Jefferson County for first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, attempted rape and cruelty to animals.
Those cases have been bound over to a Jefferson County grand jury.
Lt. Randy Christian with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said at the time of Davidson’s arrest the suspect forced his way into a home in northeastern Jefferson County, armed with what a 27-year-old female victim described as a machete.
Christian alleges Davidson strangled a kitten to death in front of the victim’s two children, an 11-month-old girl and 3-year-old boy.
He said the suspect then forced the victim into a bedroom, striking her son on the head with his hand along the way, and ransacked the drawers in the bedroom.
Christian alleges Davidson attempted to rape the mother but stopped when her 9-year-old daughter arrived at the residence on a school bus.
Davidson allegedly fled in the family’s 2000 Dodge Durango, and was later taken into custody at the truck stop by Jefferson County deputies and U.S. marshals.
If convicted of the capital murder, Davidson could have faced death by lethal injection. In accordance with the plea agreement, prosecutors have recommended that Davidson serve the remainder of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.