Dayton birthday murder trial ends with manslaughter plea

Nina Davis

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Nina Davis

Nina Davis will spend from 6 to 14 years in prison for the death of Travis Smith, the father of her children

Nina Davis’ murder trial ended Thursday morning when she plead to lesser charges that will limit her prison sentence to 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.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Gregory Singer scheduled Davis’ sentencing for April 11.

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Davis was accused of killing Travis Smith, the father of her four children, on his birthday April 29, 2016 at their Patton Avenue home. The evidence showed that Smith was shot while on or near the toilet and that the bullet entered near his right shoulder, traveled down and front to back out near his left hip.

Prosecutors had said the shooting was murder while her defense attorney argued it was an accident.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever know exactly what happened in the bathroom, but I think the evidence is clear that there was an altercation and an argument that took place that led to a firearm being discharged,” Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Dan Brandt said.

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“The angle wasn’t definitive. I think the state had an argument that the angle was such that the explanations given by the defendant in some of the stories that she tells police were inconsistent with the physical findings of the coroner. But, at the same time, the defense could have an argument using the angle as well.”

Brandt said Smith’s family was consulted Wednesday night about a possible deal.

“They were all in favor of the plea,” Brandt said. “They thought that it was a just resolution to the case.”

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Instead of facing a potential life sentence, Davis will have a definite term of incarceration when Singer decides. 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.

“I think both the defense and state recognized that the circumstances in this particular case were unique,” defense attorney Anthony VanNoy said. “Certainly, from our perspective, we believe that Nina is a very good person who was in a very difficult situation.

“There’s no real winners here. The children have lost their father. Nina has lost a significant other and it’s a real tragedy.”

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VanNoy said Davis was ready to testify Thursday morning and would have said it was an accident, but also would have been confronted with the differing stories she told police.

“I think initially there was reservation, but this was not a plea that was pushed by her lawyer,” VanNoy said. “This was something that she recognized was in her interests and her kids’ best interests and family overall.”

Brandt said the risk for each side and the evidence led to plea negotiations during the trial, but not before.

“Trials play their way out and the evidence plays its way out. Ultimately, it’s a just result,” Brandt said. “She’s taken responsibility.

“She’s plead guilty to a felony-1 homicide charge along with a gun specification. She’s going to be going to prison. It’s just a matter for how long and that’s for the judge to decide.”


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