‘A slap to the face’: Grieving family shocked by sentencing of relative’s killer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The family of Shelvey Mark Dunkley, one of the first homicide victims of 2021, was baffled and at a loss after the sentencing hearing for Dunkley’s killer, Davontay Davis, on July 20.
After Davis was found guilty of manslaughter at a May jury trial, Dunkley’s family expected Davis to receive the maximum sentence of 40 years. To their disappointment, Davis was sentenced to four years of hard labor, with credit for time served. The Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office had recommended the maximum sentence.
The shooting occurred on Jan. 30, 2021. At about 6 p.m., Rapides Parish 911 received its first call to 5440 Mansour Avenue in Alexandria.
“They shot my pawpaw,” said the minor granddaughter of Dunkley, 48, who had been shot.
Thirty-two minutes later, the call center received another call, this time from the shooter himself, Davontay Davis.
Davis: “I killed someone. Old man…”
Dispatcher: “You killed them? Where are you at?
Davis: “I’m sorry. I’m scared. I don’t want to go to jail. They was trying to hit my girlfriend. And, I opened the door, and he hit me, and I shot him. I shot him… and I’m sorry.”
When police responded to the scene, they found Dunkley shot multiple times, lying on the lawn of Davis’ apartment complex.
“I don’t think one time he got in that truck that night thinking he was gonna die,” said Michaelynne Dunkley-Franklin, Dunkley’s sister. “The detective, when we got here, he told [Dunkley’s wife] that he was probably dead before he hit the ground. That gave me some relief because I didn’t want him to have to suffer.”
Michaelynne said his brother drove 108 miles from Mansfield to Alexandria to help his granddaughter and her boyfriend, both minors, retrieve a mattress from Davis’ home.
“He was going in his mind to move a bed, to help somebody move,” said Michaelynne. “That’s what he was going to do, to help somebody move.”
According to a police report from Alexandria police, Davis’ girlfriend and her brother, who was the boyfriend of Dunkley’s granddaughter, got into an argument over the mattress. Davis’ girlfriend asked her brother and his girlfriend to leave the house. Davis went to the doorway, telling Dunkley, who was waiting outside, to move his truck off the lawn so they would not get a citation and “please leave.”
That is when Davis said Dunkley approached him while he was in his own doorway and made “threatening remarks.” Davis pushed him away, and then Dunkley struck him. That is when Davis pulled out a gun, shooting him multiple times. He claimed self-defense but was charged by APD with second-degree murder.
Davis went to trial in May, and a Rapides Parish jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. The verdict came as a setback to the family, who thought the shooting was “overkill,” but they were still optimistic because the District Attorney’s Office told them manslaughter can carry up to a 40-year sentence.
“They said we have an open and shut closed case of the 40 years,” said Michaelynne. “So, I felt like we were gonna get some kind of justification, that he would at least have to sit and think of what he had done.”
Davis’ defense attorney, Christopher LaCour, had argued the case on the “stand your ground” statute, and he believed the facts of the case played a big role in what happened next at the sentencing.
Two weeks ago, Judge Mary Doggett sentenced Davis to four years in prison - out of a maximum of 40.
“Even I was surprised on the low amount of time,” said LaCour. “I’m gonna be honest, this is one of the lowest sentences I’ve ever got on a manslaughter. Normally judges, even the judge on this case, they’re pretty hard on these cases. Somebody’s dying.”
The family was shocked and confused, feeling like the sentence offered no justice and felt like it was a “slap to the face.”
“I was just devastated at the sentencing that she gave him because it was wrong,” said Dunkley’s wife, Gussie.
“You took a father, a brother, an uncle,” said Michaelynne. “You took all of that. And then to our justification, you get four years. Like I said, that’s high school. That’s a slap on the wrist.”
Even though he argued the case on Davis’ “not guilty” plea, LaCour emphasized the unusual nature of the sentence.
“To get a manslaughter sentence after conviction under 20 years is rare, and it takes a rare circumstance,” explained LaCour. “And I think this was a rare circumstance. And I think people shouldn’t look at it no more than that. This was a rare circumstance.”
Rapides Parish DA Phillip Terrell, however, found the sentence “too light,” disagreeing with Judge Doggett’s decision.
“A man’s life was taken, and we think the sentence was not commensurate with that,” said Terrell. “Our victim posed no threat to the defendant, that’s our position. We think it did not justify him being murdered for him trying to help one of his relatives retrieve a mattress.”
Terrell told us the DA’s office is “exploring all the possibilities” regarding the sentence, and they could file a motion to reconsider the sentence.
But now, Dunkley’s family is left to pick up the pieces, and they say there is little closure.
“She is a judge, she can go home at night and be done,” said Michaelynne. “I still haven’t picked up the ashes because I can’t. Like that to me is the finality of what I have left. And I… they’re still at the funeral home, and I haven’t been able to go and get them because I don’t even know reality in my mind that he’s gone.”
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