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Florida Man Found Guilty Of Murdering, Dismembering 'ThunderCats' Cartoon Writer

Florida handyman James Davis now faces a possible death sentence after a jury found he fatally shot writer Stephen Perry and scattered his severed body parts at various locations across multiple counties. 

A police handout of James Davis

A Florida man has been found guilty for the 2010 murder and dismemberment of a former cartoonist who worked on the popular 1980s animated series “ThunderCats.”

James Davis, 56, was convicted by a Pasco County jury for the premeditated, first-degree murder of cartoon writer Stephen Perry, 56, in 2010, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Jurors agreed with prosecutors that Davis, a handyman from Zephyrhills, Florida, fatally shot Perry and used a borrowed reciprocating saw to dismember his body in 2010.

Perry had been battling bladder cancer at the time of his death. Per Fox Tampa Bay affiliate WTVT, the cartoon and comic book writer had fallen on hard times and allowed Davis and his wife to move into his home to help with bills.

Although a motive behind why Davis planned Perry’s murder and scattered his body parts across multiple counties was never clearly identified, prosecutors alleged Davis was interested in the victim’s pain relief medications, which included Oxycodone, and money. 

In May 26, 2010 — just days after the writer was reported missing — Tampa police found Perry’s van abandoned in the parking lot of a Quality Inn, according to the Fox affiliate. Inside the van (which Perry had allowed Davis to use for work), were some of Perry’s decomposing remains. A few miles away, bloody bed sheets were found in a convenience store dumpster.

More of Perry’s remains were later discovered in various locations across both Pasco and Hillsborough counties, according to NBC Tampa affiliate WFLA-TV.

“The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office recovered a right arm from the dumpster there at the Quality Inn,” said Zephyrhills Police Captain Robert McKinney in 2010. “And the torso was located on Foamflower Boulevard in Wesley Chapel by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.”

The armless torso was found beneath a tarp under a tree, per the Tampa Bay Times. Testimony showed Davis had previously lived on that street, and had been renting a room at the Quality Inn where the van was discovered after complaints by other visitors about the stench.

Davis was arrested on unrelated drug charges on May 21, 2010 and then charged with Perry’s murder in July, according to The Ledger. At the time, investigators were able to link Davis to two bleach bottles Davis purchased from a local Home Depot.

After the discovery of Perry's van and body parts, according to testimony, Donald Carmichael — from whom Davis borrowed the reciprocating saw while driving Perry's van — went back to look at his tool and discovered it covered in decomposing viscera, according to the Times. Medical examiners said it had been used to hack up Perry's body.

Receipts showed that Davis purchased a mountain of suspicious items, including the bleach, lime powder (which people often believe helps encourage decomposition but actually slows it) and tarps and ties that matched those holding some of Perry’s remains. Davis’s fingerprints were found on many of the items, and his DNA was identified on a pair of gloves found with Perry’s severed arm, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Video evidence also showed a man wearing varying disguises while using Perry’s van to withdraw money from Perry’s account in the days after his presumed death, said prosecutors. The disguises, along with Perry’s bank cards, were found in Davis’s Quality Inn room during the investigation.

Authorities also found evidence that indicated the murder was premeditated, prosecutors argued. In the months leading to Perry’s disappearance and murder, investigators found that Davis had created lists reminding him to “get a gun” and marked times that would make for an ample opportunity to kill his roommate, according to the Times. Davis also printed out online articles about how to make a homemade silencer.

“If you put all the hundreds of pieces of evidence together, you’re going to get a picture, and that picture is that the murderer, in this case, is none other than James Davis,” said State Assistant Attorney Manny Garcia.

Davis’s defense attorney, Anne Borghetti, however, argued that the evidence against her client was merely circumstantial, according to CBS Tampa Bay affiliate WTSP.

“There is no eyewitness here,” said Borghetti. “This is [a] purely circumstantial case.”

Borghetti pointed to several other possible suspects, including the victim’s estranged girlfriend, Krystal Carroll, with whom he was in a custody battle over their young son. According to ABC affiliate WFTS-TV, Perry was granted a domestic violence injunction against Carroll shortly before his disappearance.

Other suspects included Carroll’s then-new beau (a carnival worker), and Davis’s cousin, according to Perry’s defense.

“From the evidence, you can find a doubt about who actually did this,” said Borghetti, per WTSP.

Borghetti further noted that Davis’s DNA was not found on many of the items connected to the murder, including a body pillow containing both bullet holes and Perry’s blood and the reciprocating saw borrowed from Carmichael, or in blood found under Perry’s son’s toy chest.

Ultimately, it took the jury less than four hours to arrive at a guilty verdict on Monday, according to the Times. The same 12 people were expected to return to the courthouse on Tuesday for the death penalty phase of the trial.

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