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R.I. man sentenced to life in prison for rape, killing of 8-year-old

Defendant calls crime 'despicable'

Joshua Davis was led into Providence Superior Court yesterday for his sentencing in the slaying of Savannah Smith in May 2006. Joshua Davis was led into Providence Superior Court yesterday for his sentencing in the slaying of Savannah Smith in May 2006. (KATHY BORCHERS/ASSOCIATED PRESS/POOL)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Eric Tucker
Associated Press / June 26, 2008

PROVIDENCE - A man who admitted raping and strangling an 8-year-old neighbor was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, after calling his own actions "despicable and unforgivable."

Joshua Davis of Woonsocket was given the maximum sentence allowed by state law for the May 7, 2006, abduction and death of Savannah Smith. Smith's relatives applauded after the judge announced the sentence.

"I can't begin to imagine how much heartache and sorrow I have caused you," Davis told the girl's family yesterday.

Davis pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder and other crimes, admitting he abducted Smith from a park near her home in Woonsocket and drove her to a wooded section of Cranston, where he raped, beat, and strangled her. His lawyer said he admitted guilt to spare Smith's family the ordeal of a trial.

Superior Court Judge Gilbert Indeglia said the sentence would keep Davis "from further harm to others, including other children."

Smith's mother, Lisa Smith, said Davis was "the lowest piece of scum that this earth has."

"I want him to die in prison," she told the judge. "I'll never get my baby back."

Prosecutor Bethany Macktaz portrayed Davis as a calculating and cold-blooded killer as she urged the judge to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. Macktaz said Davis attacked the girl in a debris- and glass-littered area, left her battered and naked body in the woods, and paused after she was dead to wipe her blood from his hands. She said he boasted about the killing by writing in a letter from prison that "I enjoyed my catch."

Davis's lawyer, public defender John Hardiman, said Davis had been battling drug and alcohol addictions, drinking two 12-packs of beer on the day of the slaying, and had also suffered from depression and had attempted suicide.

In announcing his sentence, Indeglia cited evidence that Davis had attempted to solicit someone from behind bars to burn down the attorney general's office. the judge also read from a letter Davis wrote in prison warning of possible future attacks against members of Smith's family.

Davis will also serve consecutive life sentences for first-degree child molestation and kidnapping a minor.

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