BARTOW — Triple murder defendant Leon Davis Jr. told jurors Tuesday he was fighting a man in a Winter Haven parking lot on the afternoon of Dec. 13, 2007, when authorities allege he fatally attacked two women at a Lake Wales insurance office.
He denied he told his brother later that day that he'd robbed someone, and he never told anyone that he had hurt anyone. Davis said his family convinced him to go to authorities after he was named a suspect, but at the time, he knew nothing of the crime for which he was accused.
"I was told by my mother that the media said that I hurt somebody," Davis testified Tuesday. "I was just repeating what she said — I hurt somebody?"
Davis remained composed, addressing his answers to the jury. He talked about stepping in dog droppings at his sister's yard while unloading furniture earlier that day, and selling the handgun he'd purchased from his cousin a week earlier so he wouldn't violate his probation by owning one.
His version of the day's events mirrored that of state witnesses until he left his sister's house in Lake Wales sometime after 2 p.m. Authorities say he walked into the insurance office and attempted to rob Yvonne Bustamante, 27, and her pregnant sister-in-law, Jane Luciano, 23. When they had little money to give him, he bound them with duct tape, forced them into the restroom, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire, authorities said.
Both women later died, as did Luciano's then-unborn son.
But Davis told jurors a different scenario. He said he left his sister's house and stopped to get gasoline. He said another motorist almost hit the side of his car.
Davis said he continued on to a community center in Winter Haven, and the motorist followed him.
"He ran up in my face, cussing and stuff," Davis said. "He pushed his finger against my face, and I slapped it down. We went to the ground, and he ripped my shirt. I hit him back, trying to get him off me."
Davis testified the fight ended when a woman pulled the other man away. He said he recognized tattoos on the back of the man's hands as a gang insignia, and decided not to follow him into the community center.
"I got in my vehicle and left," he said.
From there, Davis said he went to a pet store to look at fish tanks for his son, then went to his brother's house in Winter Haven. That's where Davis' testimony and the prosecution's case come back together.
But Garrion Davis testified last week that his brother sobbed on his couch that day that he'd robbed someone and hurt someone. Tuesday, Leon Davis denied that conversation took place.
In cross-examination, Davis denied that he told his mother and sister that he'd hurt someone as they drove to the police substation so he could surrender.