LAND O'LAKES — Seven years ago, Eric Davis murdered his wife. He fired all the bullets in his gun and then reloaded, shooting her two more times as she tried to open the door at their home in Safety Harbor. While in jail, he wrote a letter to a friend describing how he enjoyed seeing photos of his wife at the murder scene.
"I'm not sorry for killing my wife, and I loved her," Davis told the Tampa Bay Times from the Pasco County jail on Thursday. Being in prison for the past seven years, he said, has made him "comfortably numb.''
But last year, when a fellow inmate at the Zephyrhills state prison told him about "doing stuff to a child," Davis said, he flew into a rage. It was about the same time as his daughter's ninth birthday.
"I just lost it," said Davis, 34, explaining why he slammed 54-year-old Joe Hayes' head against the floor and beat him with his bare fists so hard that his own right hand was bruised and swollen.
"He's a pig," Davis said of Hayes. "I can't stand pedophiles."
Hayes died April 21, 2012, at Lakeland Regional Hospital from what the Polk County medical examiner said was blunt force trauma. Authorities charged Davis this week with second-degree murder. For the past year, the Florida Department of Corrections would not release details about the circumstances surrounding Hayes' death. The agency has declined public records requests from the Times.
Davis told the Times he suffers from bipolar and antisocial disorders and rapid mood swings. At the prison, he lived with three cellmates, including Hayes, who was serving a 99-year sentence for a series of burglaries and rapes in Charlotte County in 1980. No records were available to determine whether the crimes involved children.
"Joe was weird," Davis recalled. He said Hayes made crude comments to prison nurses and waved his arms for no apparent reason. He said he tore all his mail into tiny pieces and flushed them down the toilet.
The night Hayes died, Davis, a former nightclub disc jockey, said he was walking around his cell listening to the radio when Hayes made a comment about acts he committed on a child.
"I told him to shut up, but he didn't want to shut up," Davis said. "I kind of lost my cool."
He said he can't remember all the details, but recalled slamming Hayes' head into the floor as his cellmates watched in shock. He said Hayes kept saying, "Why? Why are you doing this?" He can't say for sure, but he thinks Hayes pleaded for his life. He can't recall whether Hayes, who was 20 pounds lighter and 20 years older than Davis, fought back.
Later, after Davis went to bed, an officer came by and noticed Hayes lying on the floor.
"I told him he fell down," Davis said. The officer pointed to the surveillance camera and said it would be reviewed.
"I told him to go ahead and check it out," said Davis, who said he thought the camera wasn't working because previous things he had done had gone unpunished.
By midnight, he said, officers took him and his two other cellmates and moved them to separate shower areas because the cell had become a crime scene. By about 4 a.m. Davis said he was taken to prison in Raiford.
"I wasn't trying to kill him," Davis said.
He said he has no remorse. He has exhausted all his appeals in his wife's murder, so he expects to die in prison. He said he wishes he could just be put on death row.
"I guess you could say I just don't care," he said. "I'm stuck with a life sentence. What are they going to do to me?"