William Davis will become eligible for parole in the year 2020, 20 years after his conviction of capital murder in the death of Magnolia teenager Brittni Pater.
Davis, 34, was resentenced Monday to 40 years’ imprisonment for his part in Pater’s death at an oil well site north of the Village community in February 2000.
Davis had been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole when he was 17 years old. Under an agreement reached with the state, he will become parole eligible after serving 50 percent of his sentence – a date that arrives in 2020.
In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that life-without-parole sentences for juvenile defendants in capital murder cases from Arkansas and Alabama were cruel and unusual punishments, violating the defendants’ rights under the Eighth Amendment. In 2016, another court ruling made the decision retroactive, meaning that it applied to all defendants who were age 18 or younger when they committed their crimes.
Circuit Court Judge David Talley told Davis that he must truthfully testify in any future legal proceedings against his co-defendant, Matthew Ryan Elliott.
In an unusual twist to the proceedings, Brittni Pater’s mother, Vinita Pater, met privately with Davis in the jury room at the Columbia County Justice and Detention Facility following the resentencing.
David Butler, prosecuting attorney for the 13th Judicial District, was in the room and said that Mrs. Pater forgave Davis for her daughter’s death.
“There were a pile of tears shed,” Butler said. They hugged, and both Mrs. Pater and Davis were able to have a degree of closure in the moment, he said.
Elliott was 16 when he beat Pater, 15 -- his girlfriend -- with a metal bar and then ran over her body with his car.
Elliott is also expected to have a resentencing hearing due to the same age-related rules affecting Davis’ case.
Davis was charged with capital murder in the Pater homicide. The day before Elliott killed Pater, Davis helped Elliott dig a grave near the Davis home in which he intended to bury Pater. Davis provided Elliott with bubble wrap for potential disposal of the body. The metal bar with which Elliott beat Pater came from the Davis home.
Davis told a 2011 court hearing in the case that he had no direct role in Pater's murder, but that he did discuss with Elliott his plan to kill his girlfriend. He said Elliott's motive was that Pater had told him that she was pregnant, and that if he did not pay for an abortion, Pater would claim that he raped her.
Davis also intended to provide Elliott with an alibi for the evening of the homicide. The murder plot unraveled when Davis’ brother-in-law unexpectedly joined a campout Davis and Elliott had on the evening of the murder. Elliott slipped away from the campout and drove to the Pater home, where he picked up his girlfriend. Elliott took Pater to the oil well site near the campout location, and killed her.
Elliott confessed the crime to Davis and his brother-in-law, who called law enforcement after finding the body.
Davis opted for a jury trial and was found guilty. He received life-without-parole, which was the only sentencing option available aside from the death penalty.
Guilt was not an issue during Monday’s resentencing. If Davis had not agreed to the 40-year term, a formal resentencing hearing would have been set. At that hearing, both the state and the defense would have presented evidence and witnesses to support new sentences, ranging from no less than 10 years and no more than 40 years in prison, or life in prison.