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North Side homicide brings life sentence without chance of release

October 3, 2018

Donald Davis, right, with his lawyer, John Smerlinski, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2017 murder of Ciara Philumalee on Madison's North Side.

Donald Davis Jr., who shot and killed a woman he believed had stolen from him and also maimed a man who witnessed the attack, will spend the rest of his life in prison without any chance for release, a Dane County judge ruled Wednesday.

Davis, 30, of Madison, shot Ciara Philumalee, 24, in July 2017 after she was lured out of a North Side apartment building, then fired another shot to her head as she lay on the ground. He was sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole after Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky said with some frustration that Davis gave her no reason to do anything else.

He lied on the witness stand during his trial in June, she said, as he attempted to blame others for the shooting, then said nothing to a state Department of Corrections agent writing a pre-sentence report and nothing in court when he was given the opportunity to speak.

“When we walked in here today I was really hoping, Mr. Davis, that you would take some responsibility,” Karofsky said. “I was mostly hoping you would take some responsibility so that Ciara’s family could have a little bit of peace. I was also hoping you would take responsibility so that we could start to plant the seed of belief that you understood what happened, that you were ready to come to grips with it, that there was a hope for rehabilitation. But you chose not to.”

Karofsky said that Madison and Dane County deserve to be protected from people “willing to commit a cold and calculated homicide like this.”

“I have been really searching for some reason, Mr. Davis, for some way, for you not to spend the rest of your life in prison,” Karofsky said. “I am unable to get there.”

The life sentence for first-degree intentional homicide was mandatory, but Karofsky could have decided to make Davis eligible for release from extended supervision as early as 20 years into his sentence. Davis’ lawyer, John Smerlinski, asked that Davis be made eligible for release after 30 years, while the DOC pre-sentence report recommended 40 years.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Moeser recommended that Davis never be made eligible for release, saying that the homicide “was carried out in a cold and calculated manner.” He called Davis “psychopathic” and said he hunted down Philumalee over what he said was a robbery at Davis’ apartment.

“Even if she had been involved in a robbery, it didn’t justify this,” Moeser said.

The night of July 27, 2017, Joseph Jordan was looking for a prostitute and was set up with Jennifer Lovick. While Lovick was at Jordan’s apartment on West Karstens Drive, Philumalee, who was a friend of Jordan, dropped by. Lovick recognized her as someone Davis was looking for.

Philumalee and Jordan took Lovick, who was homeless, Downtown to the area where she was hanging out, and she called Davis. Davis called Nicole Marco, who picked up Davis, Lovick and Lovick’s boyfriend, Korey Johnson, and drove them back to West Karstens Drive, where Lovick lured Philumalee out of Jordan’s apartment.

When she stepped outside, Davis opened fire. Jordan was also shot and suffered permanent injuries to his face as a result.

Davis also received concurrent sentences for first-degree reckless injury, for shooting Jordan, and eluding, for leading police on a car chase when they tried to arrest him.

Philumalee left behind two children, family members said, now ages 2 and 5.

Margaret Philumalee, Ciara Philumalee’s grandmother, said she called Ciara “Sunshine” because of her smile.

“Now every time I look at her picture I wonder how she felt,” she said. “Was she in pain? Was she afraid? Did she realize this was something she was not going to wake up from?”

She told Davis that she wished he could feel what her granddaughter felt when he “walked up and shot her in the head. I hope you feel the same feeling that she had, for the rest of your life, times 10.”

Ciara Philumalee’s mother, Jennifer Philumalee, told Davis that at first, she believed Davis owed her “breath, you took my baby’s breath and you owe me breath. But you know what? I want you to suffer every breath for the rest of your life.”

Lovick, who pleaded guilty to felony murder, is to be sentenced on Nov. 12. Sentencing for Marco, who pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide, is set for Nov. 14. Johnson, who pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless homicide, is set for sentencing on Nov. 26.

All three testified at Davis’ trial.

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