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Cold case detectives in Florida said this week that they are eyeing a death row inmate, who late last year was connected through DNA evidence to a second, decades-old murder, as a possible suspect in other unsolved homicides and missing person cases from the 1980s and '90s.
Det. Kurt Mehl with the Charlotte County Cold Case Unit said in an interview this week that they are looking at convicted murderer Roland "Rollie" Thomas Davis Sr. in multiple unsolved cases. Davis was convicted of the murder of an elderly Ohio woman 15 years ago and was charged in November with the brutal 1990 murder of a Florida mother who was found stabbed dozens of times in her home. He was also arrested in Ohio in 2003 for severely beating a prostitute, detectives said.
“Because Mr. Davis has been involved in at least two homicides and an attempted homicide of a prostitute in Columbus, Ohio, he is on our radar for unsolved cases of missing women and murdered women,” Mehl said.
Davis, 68, has been on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution in Ohio for over 15 years after his conviction in the stabbing death of 86-year-old Elizabeth Sheeler in her Newark, Ohio apartment in 2000. On July 11, he had entered Sheeler’s apartment overnight, where he stabbed her in the neck and chest multiple times, stole some cash, then fled the scene, as indicated in the state of Ohio’s case against him.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office said that Davis, who spent his time between Southwest Florida and Ohio, was a taxi driver in the Newark area at the time of Sheeler’s murder, He had driven her in his cab on several occasions, and was even specifically requested by the elderly widow, as he would help her bring items into her basement apartment, prosecutors said.
It took two days for Sheeler's neighbors, who noticed newspapers piling up at her door, to request the building do a welfare check on her. Upon entering the apartment, one of the building’s owners “saw blood on the bed and a foot sticking out from underneath bedding on the floor,” according to court documents. Detectives who arrived at the scene said that the apartment had been ransacked, but they were able to locate some of the hidden cash and silver certificates — worth nearly $3,000, altogether — hidden away in Sheeler’s spare bedroom.
Davis soon became a suspect after a tip from an out-of-state agency, prosecutors said. But they were not able to charge him with the evidence they had, and the case went cold. It was unsolved for nearly four years until DNA evidence found on the bloodstained fitted sheet from Sheeler’s bedroom implicated Davis, as outlined in court documents.
Davis was arrested for Sheeler's murder in April 2004. He was convicted and put on death row in 2005.
It was 15 years later that police detectives in Newark were contacted by investigators in Florida about an unsolved 1990 homicide.
On Nov. 23, detectives announced that DNA was once again the evidence that linked Davis to a long-unsolved brutal crime — the murder of Sharon Gill at her Florida home in 1990.
Gill, 42, had just moved to Florida’s Charlotte County and was set to be joined by her husband, Detroit-based minister Percy Gill, after he finished up some work in Michigan, local station WWSB reported. She was alone in her home in Deep Creek on March 21, 1990, when a man broke in and stabbed her 39 times. Her body was discovered by her 18-year-old daughter, Krista Gill, when she returned from school that day.
Detectives, who had followed tips on the case for three decades, said Davis was down in Florida at the time of Gill’s murder. He had been working on a landscaping crew that had done some work on Gill’s home.
Vogel said there is no known motive for the murder, and that Davis is “probably a psychopath,” the Port Charolette Sun reported.
Krista Gill, who had waited 30 years to learn who had murdered her mother, said that she was relieved that the killer was not on the loose for the past three decades.
“I think the biggest feeling for me that I dealt with, I was just happy to know that he was already behind bars, and he wasn’t able to hurt or do this to another family,” she said in an interview with local Florida station WINK.
But detectives are not done looking into Davis’ murky history. They are reportedly looking into the cold case disappearance of Christine Flahive, who vanished from Charlotte County in 1995. They said they're also investigating whether Davis may have any link to the remains of a woman found in the area in 1980, along with other cases surrounding missing women.
“The logic, of course, for us is — is he responsible for any other murders between Southwest Florida and Ohio, or anywhere else in the country, for that matter,” Mehl said.
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