UPDATE @ 9:19 a.m. (March 23)
Nina Davis’ murder trial ended Thursday morning when her attorney and prosecutors struck a plea deal which will limit her prison time from six to 14 years.
Davis, 35, pleaded guilty by bill of information to one count of involuntary manslaughter with a three-year gun specification. In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of murder, felonious assault and tampering with evidence.
Prosecutors said a stipulated sentence would be three to 11 years for the first-degree felony involuntary manslaughter count plus a mandatory three years for the gun specification.
Davis was accused of killing Travis Smith during an argument in their home. Anthony VanNoy, Davis’ attorney, had said the killing was accidental. The defense was scheduled to begin Thursday morning and VanNoy had said Davis would take the stand.
Travis Smith died in his bathroom on April 29, 2016 — his birthday — from a bullet fired after had just used the toilet.
After that, prosecutors said the story of Smith’s live-in girlfriend and mother to their children changed several times. Nina Davis’ defense attorney said the shooting was an accident that happened during an argument.
Davis, 35, was indicted on two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault and one count of tampering with evidence. Her trial began Monday in the courtroom of Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Gregory Singer.
A Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy — even though it was in the city of Dayton — was only a block and a half from the residence on Patton Avenue in Dayton when dispatchers said someone called saying they needed medical assistance after a shooting.
“Over the course of the next 24 hours, the defendant would do everything she could to convince Dayton police officers that this shooting was an accident,” Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Kraig Chadrick told jurors. “But as each piece of evidence was collected and analyzed, it became clear that the shooting death of Travis Smith wasn’t an accident. It was a murder.”
Law enforcement officers testified about how Smith was found in a fetal position on the floor of the bathroom with his underwear around his ankles and that a discharged bullet, shell casing and broken cell phone also were located.
Chadrick said the path the bullet took hit Smith’s right lung, the right side of the heart, his liver and exited out the lower portion of his lower left back near his buttocks was not not consistent with an accidental discharge.
Defense attorney Anthony VanNoy told jurors the path of the bullet proves his position.
“Clearly from the evidence, the firearm is either picked up or taken from Travis, and as she’s taking that firearm from Travis, the shot is fired,” VanNoy said. “It’s an accident. You don’t shoot somebody in the shoulder to kill them. You shoot them in the chest, you shoot them in the face. It was an accidental shooting. It was not intentional.”
The deputy and Dayton police officers testified that Davis was frantic when they arrived and begging for the ambulance to get Smith. Cruiser cam video showed Davis first telling officers Smith was shot when he came into the house.
“There’s a reason why Ms. Davis’ version of events changes,” Chadrick said. “It’s because she’s not telling the truth.”
VanNoy said Smith had a blood-alcohol level of .29 — more than three times the legal limit to drive a car — and that his phone went off. Then, he said, Davis saw that it was another woman calling, smashed it and took it to Smith, who had told her to come into the bathroom.
VanNoy said that Davis initially was scared to tell police the truth, but quickly told them it was an accident. He told jurors his client will take the stand to testify.
“She grabbed it. She picked it up. And you’re going to hear she’s a novice with a firearm, but she didn’t intentionally or knowingly shoot Travis,” VanNoy said. “Listen to Nina after the call, after the shots are fired. She calls 911 and she is a wreck. She’s asking, begging, pleading for help for Travis.”
A detective testified he found the gun under a shirt in an open dresser drawer. The detective showed the jury the gun, and pointed to where the safety mechanism is.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday afternoon in a trial scheduled to last until Thursday.