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The Sledgehammer Killer – Zachary Davis

One of the most horrific acts that a human being can carry out against their fellow human beings is murder. It’s perplexing enough to imagine the motivation behind an adult killing another adult but what about when it is a child or teenager committing this violent deed? In this article, we shall look at the murder of Melanie Davis and the attempted murder of Josh Davis.  Was the killer impaired by a severe mental illness or was he just pure evil?

The 10th of August, 2012, started just like any other day but by the following morning, Melanie Davis would be dead and her 15-year-old son, Zachary, would be in police custody.

Melanie was as Australian citizen who moved to Hendersonville, Tennessee, to marry Chris. The couple went on to have two sons – first born was Josh and second born was Zachary. They were your average all-American family that lived in a middle class neighbourhood. Melanie worked as a paralegal and in her free time, she partook in triathlons.

Melanie Davis.

However, in 2007, tragedy struck when Chris died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The death came as a blow to the whole family but it particularly had an impact on 10-year-old Zachary who fell into a deep depression.  Within just a few months, Zachary would be sent for psychiatric treatment with Dr. Bradley Freeman at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Zachary told his psychiatrist that he would very frequently hear disembodied voices. It was evident that he was suffering from some form of mental disease from the very first meeting. Nevertheless, Zachary’s case was terminated when Melanie stopped bringing her son to his appointments with Dr. Freeman.

Zachary Davis.

Throughout his teenage years, Zachary was known to be an outcast by his peers at Station Camp High School. He possessed some bizarre quirks and characteristics. One student recalled how Zachary often refused to speak in his regular voice and almost always responded in a whisper when being spoken to. This same student added that Zachary would wear the same hoodie day in and day out.1

At approximately 9PM on the 10th of August, 2012, 46-year-old Melanie went to bed just like usual. Earlier on in the evening, Melanie, 16-year-old Josh, and 15-year-old Zachary had attended a showing of the comedy film “The Campaign” at the local cinema before returning home together. As Melanie drifted off to sleep, she was completely unaware that her youngest son, Zachary, was planning something extremely sinister.

When Melanie and Josh were both asleep, Zachary crept into his mother’s bedroom. He was armed with a sledgehammer that he had retrieved from the basement. With that sledgehammer, Zachary bludgeoned Melanie in the head over and over again. The medical examiner would later conclude that Melanie suffered at least eight blows to the head.

The blood-spattered teenager then left the bedroom, locking the door behind him, and walked to the game’s room. In here, he poured gasoline and whiskey over the walls and floors and set it alight before fleeing off into the night. Thankfully, Zachary closed the game’s room door thus the fire did not spread due to lack of oxygen. Moments later, the fire alarm quickly started beeping and Josh awoke from his slumber. Realising that his mother’s bedroom door was locked, he broke the door down and was met by an unimaginable scene.

Josh Davis.

Josh ran to a neighbour’s home for help.

Approximately five hours later, a Sumner County Sheriff’s Office deputy found Zachary, walking along a two-lane road roughly five miles from his home off Long Hollow Pike. Zachary was taken in for questioning without incident and readily confessed that he had murdered his mother as she slept. Sheriff Sonny Weatherford said that when he confessed, he had a malevolent smirk on his face.

It was April of 2015 and after narrowing the jury down to seven men and five women, Zachary’s trial was ready to commence. Zachary was being tried as an adult and was pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. Defence lawyer, Randy Lucas, and prosecution, Sumner County Attorney General Ray Whitley, laid out the basis of their arguments in opening statements. “There was harmony in the house,” said Whitley. “Zach Davis had planned and intended to kill his mother and brother, and tonight was the night,” announced Whitley to the crowded court room. 2

This was cold-blooded murder, the prosecution declared but the defence offered a different motivation.

Zachary’s defence lawyer announced in his opening statement that jury would see a taped confession of Zachary , declaring that even though he admitted to the murder, doesn’t mean that he is guilty. Zachary was suffering from an untreated mental illness at the time of the murders, his defence lawyer argued, and for this reason, he shouldn’t be held responsible for his actions.

Dr. Bradley Freeman, who had earlier examined Zachary, took to the stand and testified that Zachary had told him that when he killed his mother, he did so at the request of his father.  However, as mentioned earlier, Zachary’s father passed away in 2007. Zachary had earlier revealed to Dr. Freeman that he had frequently been hearing his father’s voice and Zachary would relay this information to the court room.

“We’ve heard talk about you hearing voices when no one is there. Do you hear voices, Zach?” an attorney asked.

“Yes,” the teen replied quietly.

“Can you tell the judge, do you recognise that voice?”

“It’s the voice of my father,” Davis said.

“And does he continue to talk with you even after you’ve been in the jail?”

“Yeah.”

3

He believed that his father had been telling him that he needed to kill his mother. Assistant District Attorney Tara Wylie refuted these claims when she pointed out that Zachary had not mentioned hearing his father’s voice until after his first hearing at juvenile court. Dr. Freeman announced to the jury that he had diagnosed Zachary with schizophrenia, adding that due to this disorder, he could not form the necessary thought process which was needed in order to commit first degree murder. “His judgement was driven by his psychosis. That’s what I believe prevents him from premeditating this crime,” Dr. Freeman said.

Another psychologist who had interviewed Zachary 30 times since his arrest agreed with this diagnosis. “I’ve never encountered someone so severely detached from his emotions” she told the jury, adding that she diagnosed him with schizophrenia as well as depression. 4

Throughout the trial, Zachary frequently manically laughed at inappropriate times. On the third day of the trial, Zachary took to the stand to testify on his own behalf and said something that nobody – including his attorney – expected to hear: “I didn’t do it,” he exclaimed. 5 “I took the fall for my brother. I didn’t do it. He killed her with a sledgehammer,” Zachary told the stunned courtroom. When Zachary’s defence lawyer, Randy Lucas, reminded him that there was a hand-written confession as well as a taped confession, Zachary replied: “I didn’t kill her…” In addition to the confessions, Melanie’s blood was spattered over his trousers.

The prosecution had argued that regardless of mental illness, Zachary had meticulously planned his attack. He had written his plans in his diary in the days leading up to the murder. He had poured gasoline and whiskey into the bedroom before setting it alight.  Additionally, Zachary had fled the home with a packed bag that he had prepared earlier and threw his cell phone into a ditch so that police could not trace it. This is a clear indication of premeditation. Presiding over the trial was Sumner County Judge Dee David Gay, who concluded that while Zachary probably did suffer from mental illnesses, he knew wrong from right. “The thing that bothers me is that you have shown no regrets, no remorse, in murdering your own mother at age 15,” he bellowed to the stone-faced Zachary.

The trial took another unexpected twist when Zachary’s diary was presented to the jury. This diary had been found in Zachacy’s backpack when he was apprehended following the murder. On an entry that was dated the 10th of August, 2012 – the same day Zachary killed his mother – he claimed that his brother had raped him. “I was raped by him that day, and I’ve been planning to kill him ever since.” Following the murder, he wrote another journal entry which read: “I killed Melanie and left Josh alone to suffer… I didn’t feel anything… I didn’t feel remorse… My only true regret was that I didn’t give her a faster death. I didn’t want her to suffer.”

However, these claims were meticulously investigated and the Department of Children’s Services found no evidence to back these claims up. Furthermore, when Josh was questioned about these claims, he told investigators that he loved his brother and that these claims were “ridiculous.” Was this just an instance of a damaged mind becoming confused or was Zachary trying to place the blame on somebody else?

One of the most harrowing moments of the trial was when Zachary’s taped confession was played. In this confession, he explained his reasoning behind using a sledgehammer to kill his mother: “I was worried that I’d miss,” adding that the sledgehammer gave him the “highest chance of killing her.” When asked by the detective if he could go back in time, would he still carry out the attack to which he replies: “I would probably kill Josh with a sledgehammer too.”

Family members and family friends disclosed that they never believed anything to be amiss with Zachary. While yes, he was different, nothing could have indicated that he was capable of such violence. He had a good relationship with his mother and brother and Melanie Garner, a TBI expert in computer forensics corroborated this. While investigating Zachary’s phone, she found text messages between the family. In fact, there were pleasantries exchanged just the day before Zachary killed Melanie.

After a four day trial, the jury sided with the prosecution. Zachary was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment plus another 20 years for the attempted murder of his brother.  “I think that Zach Davis is a little bit smarter and a little bit wilier than we give him credit for,” announced Sumner Country District Attorney Ray Whitely following the sentencing phase.

While Zachary serves his life sentence, the outside opinion on the true motivation behind the senseless murder still remains very much divided.


Footnotes:

  1.  https://www.reddit.com/r/casualiama/comments/37j6rf/i_went_to_school_and_had_class_with_zachary_davis/
  2. The News-Examiner – 15 April, 2015
  3. MSMV News – 15 January, 2014
  4. MSMV News – 15 January, 2014
  5. The Tennessean – 15 April, 2015
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Allison
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Allison

This story is so disturbing… How could he do that to his own mom? And the way he laughs in the video… scary.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

The nod is what got me the most!

Haley
Guest
Haley

Me too! It was very odd

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

3 nods are the sign of the devil

frey
Guest
frey

666

frey
Guest
frey

turned me on tbh

Jillian
Guest
Jillian

thats fucking hilarious

Lar
Guest
Lar

Because hes mentally disturbed, severly. Why mom pulled him from counseling is what i wanna know. Theres obv something significantly wrong w him. Wouldnt shock me to find out theres skmethjng amiss about the parents and bros too. That sh”t is hereditary

Jenni
Guest
Jenni

Most definitely, the mom isn’t as innocent as the are making her to be. Why did she stop taking him? This whole story is missing too many pieces for him to be punished like that. Mental illness isn’t drooling on yourself and being cross eyed. Zach is true definition of mental illness.

Cole
Guest
Cole

It sells more papers (and mouse clicks) when you have an innocent darling victim and a big bad evil villain. It doesn’t matter who is truly innocent nor who is guilty..

frey
Guest
frey

disgusting

Cole
Guest
Cole

His mom removed him from therapy before he could recover from his father’s death and the deep depression that followed (against the wishes of some of their family). By some accounts, Zachary’s mother Melanie was “oblivious to her son.”

She chose to move on after her husband’s death by ignoring her son’s mental health issues. These issues, in turn, led to her demise.

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

The laughing and the nodding in the video is so creepy. He knew what he was doing.

Carew Martin
Guest
Carew Martin

Killing his mom wasn’t very nice

NotAgain
Guest
NotAgain

Good point

Cat
Guest
Cat

It wasn’t very nice?? What a massive understatement. What he did was horrific.

Ana Nimity
Guest
Ana Nimity

You know what I think? I think what he said about his mother not taking care of them was true. He probably thought she was a bad mother and she probably did things to support his thoughts. Regardless, MURDER is never the answer. Poor kid … probably thought that he couldn’t go to anyone to talk to. He was probably too socially awkward to do so anyway. He was literally trapped in his own distorted mind, and felt there was no way out. I feel sorry for him. Not disgust or hatred, but sympathy. He needs MAJOR help. Hope he gets it. Jail isn’t the answer for mental disabilities. It may be the consequence for what a disability caused one to do, but never a remedy for that disability. Someone, like Dr. Phil, needs to dissect this kids mind (as much as they possibly can) and find ways to help him.

Ana Nimity
Guest
Ana Nimity

Whoa, just noticed that the time stamp is incorrect. I posted that and this reply on May 5th at about 11:34 pm and 11:38 pm

Marisa
Guest
Marisa

Probably different time zones.

True Justice
Guest
True Justice

You feel sorry for Zachary? Are you serious lady? He’s a young cold-blooded killer who seemed to have enjoyed killing his mother. He enjoyed every swing of that sledgehammer and the sound it made hitting her skull.
But wait, you started off your ignorant comment by saying that Zachary was probably right about his mother not taking good care of them and was probably a bad mom etc..
How dare you come on here and say such awful things about a woman who had lost her husband and seemed to be doing everything she could do for those 2 sons? She deserves nothing but respect for raising them on her own, she most certainly didn’t deserve to be bludgeoned to death by her own son. Something’s wrong with the way you’re trying to excuse his behavior by blaming his mother for allegedly not taking good care of them.
Kids that murder at a young age aren’t your normal kids, they don’t have empathy for others and once they cross the line into murder, leniency can’t be given to them. If given a slap on the wrist, they’ll murder again.

Cole
Guest
Cole

I disagree with your opinion.

Zachary and his mother Melanie are both victims of one another. Zachary became increasingly mentally-impaired by his mother Melanie’s abuse. Melanie intentionally withdrew Zachary from therapy after the death of his father and Zachary’s newly-identified deep depression (which developed comorbidly with schizophrenia).

Melanie selfishly wanted to move on after her husband’s death at the expense of her child’s well-being. Zachary’s peers described his mom as “oblivious to her son.” Her wanton child-neglect gradually developed into a significant abuse against Zachary.

To conjecture further, I suspect that Melanie abused Zachary in other ways as well. It is highly apparent that Zachary is hiding facts about their relationship and he is probably ashamed about how she treated him. Typically in these cases, a child or perpetrator is seeking a restoration of their sense of power and control over their own lives. It may be impossible to ever know the truth when the only two witnesses are a kid with severe schizophrenia and a kid that he alleges to be his molester / rapist. Both are unreliable.

On another note, insane people likely won’t be deterred by punishment. Zachary will probably gain nothing from incarceration, but at least he won’t be free to commit any other murders in response to the voices in his head.

Cat
Guest
Cat

You must be crazy. You feel sorry for him and say “poor kid”. He’s a psycho who knew exactly what he was doing and planned it. He also claimed his brother committed the murder yet, conversely, said that if he could go back in time he would have killed his brother with the sledgehammer too. Nobody in their right mind would have any pity for an evil, twisted person like that.

Lar
Guest
Lar

I pity him because he has a broken mind. I pity the enyire famiky and in severe cases like this, there isnt any hope or rehab avail to fix him. Honestly, death would be a mercy move for someone like this.

stunny
Guest
stunny

if one day you suffer mental disorder and do something bad, would you want someone to feel pity for you? Have you ever read in the Bible how many times Jesus set human beings free from demons? All the answers are in the Bible, but nowadays nobody cares… Anyway, be careful how you judge…….

Tara White
Guest
Tara White

Bad moms dont usually bother to take their sons to the movies…some people are JUST BORN EVIL! Nature vs. Nurture

Cole
Guest
Cole

That does not appear to be factually accurate – from what I’ve read, the brothers went to the movies together (the mom could have paid for it, but I don’t believe she was with them).

Regardless of that fact, there are insane and bipolar people that exist in the world. Abusive people often try to make-up for their abuse by treating their victims to something nice (to keep them around so that they can continue the abuse).

You cannot base your entire evaluation of a person’s long-term conduct on a single action (without being wrong).

Jenni
Guest
Jenni

@ Ana Nimity… if they would just listen to the poor kid they will get the answers. I believe his brother raped him and his mom did nothing about it. Shit, she took him away from his family(dads) and cut off all ties. This kid dealt with his illness alone cause he asked for help and his own mom didn’t listen. Not saying she deserved it, but she was all he had left cause she isolated him. Also, He didn’t want to believe his dad was dead so he started imagining his dad speaking to him and with illness it was a perfect storm.. he in no way deserves jail. We all need to wake the hell up and not be worried about tarnishing our “name”. This story is so messed up, the judge, D.A., and whoever said he wasn’t insane needs to be educated. When you’re honest and beg for help and get nothing but pain and rejection along with having mental issues especially hearing voices can absolutely make you react this way. I wouldnt doubt it if his brother did have something to do with it. But because his brother pretends like they were a “perfect” family and the authority doesn’t want to do their homework another child gets the worst consequences. I can’t beleive nobody is stepping up and not helping this kid out. Hope he finds some kind of peace. And I wonder if he is getting the help he should be being in prison!?? Wake the fuck up already!

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

That’s a whole lotta speculation, Jenni.

Jenn
Guest
Jenn

Did you guys hear the first words “i didn’t do it”, its very quick and soft.

Jenn
Guest
Jenn

Did you heard the very first worda “i didn’t do it” very quick and soft.

Richard Stone
Guest
Richard Stone

At the very start of the Dr Phil interview you can hear him mumble “It wasnt me”

Michael
Guest
Michael

I feel for him for there is no greater pain than to feel like your parents do not care about your health and well being.

Suzel V
Guest
Suzel V

That’s no excuse for killing someone. Why not just run away? You’re not 5 you’re 15! Call CPS on your parents if they’re that bad or go live with a favorite uncle/best friend, etc! Get a job at Mcdonalds… or just THANK them for giving you a roof over your head and a place to grow up safely!

Ellen Dunsmore
Guest
Ellen Dunsmore

Because he’s schizophrenic. He cannot reason like you and I can, he can’t think “I could just run away”. That’s exactly what makes someone schizophrenic, they are totally fractured from reality, they cannot tell what is real and what isn’t. They don’t feel remorse, or empathy, or sympathy, and are not able to form relationships with other people because they don’t understand what a relationship is…Schizophrenia is a total fracture of the brain from reality. They hear people who aren’t there and truly believe that they are there and speaking to them in a very “normal” way. So when you make a statement saying that a schizophrenic 15 year-old should have “called CPS on your parents if they’re that bad or go live with a favorite uncle or best friend, get a job, etc.”, it’s a totally ridiculous request. None of this is at all possible for a schizophrenic, it’s not even fathomable. And I understand that you don’t understand that, that you don’t understand schizophrenia, that’s obvious from your comments, but that’s exactly the problem, not many people have any idea what schizophrenia is, and therefore just think of this teenager as an “evil monster”. That’s the problem, he’s not evil at all. He’s extremely sick, extremely mentally ill. And not just “depression” ill or even bi-polar ill, he completely lacks any connection with the reality around him. The best way of describing a schizophrenic is that they themselves live totally inside of their brains, that’s their reality, just like the world is reality for you and I. So if you sit and think about all of the bizarre, unrealistic, fantasy thoughts that you’ve ever had throughout your entire life, even the scariest or most bizarre thoughts that you’ve had or come-up with, that’s what is actually reality for a schizophrenic…So imagine how creative people can be, writing stories, movies, etc. Stephen King, Thomas Harris, etc…Think about a human’s creativity, such as Wes Craven who wrote “A Nightmare On Elm St.”…If Wes Craven was schizophrenic, when he had those thoughts that resulted in the creation of Freddy Kruger and that entire story-line, that would have been reality for him…Until you can fully understand schizophrenia, there is no way to understand just how sick this young man is. And unfortunately his schizophrenia was actually diagnosed but totally untreated due to his mother pulling him out of even out-patient treatment…There are varying degrees of schizophrenia, and Mr. Davis’s schizophrenia is quite advanced and all-inclusive, meaning it dictates his entire life and world. He should have been living in a facility that specializes in the treatment of severe schizophrenia, and instead now a woman is dead and he is in state-prison for the rest of his life, where he could very likely hurt or kill more people because he’s getting no treatment, no medication such as Lithium, Librium, etc. It’s not only sad that he’s in prison when he is the definition of “innocent by reason of insanity”, but it’s also totally irresponsible for the Prosecutor to ignore this and put him away in the normal prison population with normal guards and people not trained to handle his kind of illness…

Sam
Guest
Sam

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this comment Ellen but I couldn’t agree with you more. You’ve really summed this up. Of course there is a lot we aren’t privy to but I am absolutely dumbfounded by the Prosecutor’s decision. Shame on the legal system that has condemned this poor kid. I wish there was something I could do to help. Thanks for your insight, it is astute and valuable to say the very least

Jenni
Guest
Jenni

Hahaha!! Yea cause CPS actually does anything to help. The kids that are abused and should be taken away are not and end up dead cause when they go to investigate the parents LIE and or don’t cooperate and therefore the case never moves foward. Some of y’all people really have no clue how fucked up this our government is, let alone the world. His mother did not nurture him she neglected him. Why don’t you y’all read the part where he was going to psychiatric doctors and HIS “wonderful” mother stopped taking him?? She isolated and neglected him. Yes, he is wrong but no he doesn’t deserve prison and if he was to ever get out he would do something again because NOBODY WILL HELP HIM..

Mazikeen Lebron
Member

i feel bad for him n the fam,he do looks like he has problems he need it the help when he waz a child, the way he tlks too

Jj fortay
Guest
Jj fortay

You need help with that horrendous spelling

Swankerz
Guest
Swankerz

He sounds just like the main character from Swingblade.

Kaila
Guest
Kaila

His voice alone is creepy!! Schizophrenic or not it was premeditated and the things he said in court are horrible!!! I’m glad he’s in prison and not on the streets.

GFires
Guest
GFires

He is severely mentally ill. He has to think very hard to mimic common human emotions, facial expressions and body movements – hence the on purpose, stilted three time head nod when agreeing or affirming and the occasional chuckle. He lives in a world created solely by himself only reacting to reality rather than living in it. Severe Aspergers at the least and Schizophrenia at worst he is still responsible for his actions. Tragic and sad no matter what… it reminds me of Adam Lanza and his mother.

josh
Guest
josh

this young man clearly needs an Exorcism

Cole
Guest
Cole

Right after fairies and pixie-dust bless his unicorn’s genie

Pastor James Bo
Guest
Pastor James Bo

The kid is a dick and will rot forever in the eternal flames of Hell, with the ultimate damnation placed upon him by our Lord Jesus Christ and will forever cry the tears of the guilty as his flesh melts from his putrid, wretched body.

stunny
Guest
stunny

Are you completely out of your mind? Are you even a pastor? Did you ever read the bible? If you did read ever, you wouldn represent Christ as sadistic as you did. The annihilation of the unrepented would occur once and forever, there is no eternal torment, and there is difference between sadism and punishment.

Irvan
Guest
Irvan

Although what he did was un-excusable …. I do feel that his brother had raped him as he mentioned. I also just from reading this can CLEARLY see how odd his brother’s response to his allegation was. Its unfortunate that he did not get real help and things are now the way they are.

abo
Guest
abo

rott in hell fucker

Robert Schlie
Member
Robert Schlie

This kid is obviously mentally disturbed so I am not sure why they said he was able to stand trial. He should be in a hospital, not prison.

Sam
Guest
Sam

I couldn’t agree more with Jenni, Ana nimity and in particular Ellen Dunsmore on this site. Ellen you summed this tragic situation up very well. Despite a lot of people’s opinions, I do feel desperately sorry for Zachary and this whole unfortunate situation. It’s obvious to me he is unwell and suffering from a severe form of mental illness which unfortunately went undiagnosed before this tragic situation occurred. People with these types of illnesses often lack insight into their own conditions and are therefore less capable of initiating a course of action in seeking help. Personally when observing Zachary I see a haunted and (as Dr Phil stated) ‘lost’ human being, not a monster or somebody evil at all. I also believe and agree with Ellen in that prison is not the right place for Zachary. Despite his undoings he is a human being, barely an adult and therefore deserves an evolved society that can help him come to grips with and manage his illness. My thoughts and prayers to all affected by this sad, sad story.

Seymour Brighton
Guest
Seymour Brighton

This kid was like this for several years beforehand without treatment. He’s clearly mentally ill.

Sam
Guest
Sam

I couldn’t agree more with your comment Seymour and sadly I do believe this could have been prevented. People who may not have had any exposure to or experience in the area of mental health are very quick to judge and condemn. That’s not to say that people afflicted with any kind of mental illness are going to commit crimes, but unlike other illnesses or diseases (such as diabetes or hypertension for example) mental health remains an area of health that stills falls behind and lacks in understanding by some of the population.

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