Thursday, April 19, 2018
Public safety

Indicted Colorado developer found dead after apparent suicide in Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE — Developer Zach Davidson arrived in the affluent city of Greenwood Village, Colo., seven years ago with a grand plan.

Davidson envisioned a $255 million project of condominiums, townhouses, restaurants and shops in the city of about 14,000 just south of Denver. He threw lavish parties to create a buzz, and it worked. Two luxury condo towers in his Landmark development got built, the first one selling out in a day.

"He got out into the community to meet the people who could write the checks for those units," recalled Mayor Ron Rakowsky, who was a City Council member at the time.

But the sputtering economy bankrupted the project. Then, last month, an Arapahoe County grand jury indicted Davidson, alleging he stole $3.1 million from public bonds issued for the Landmark development.

Last Tuesday, authorities say, Davidson drove his 2003 Mercedes sedan into the Withlacoochee State Forest in Hernando County and hanged himself. Two teenagers trail-riding in a pickup discovered the 45-year-old's body hanging by a rope from a tree near Forest Road 9, about a mile from Croom Road, east of Brooksville.

Authorities have not found a link between Davidson and Hernando County, but they did find a note in the Mercedes.

"It cited several areas of concern in his life which led to his decision to commit suicide," said Hernando sheriff's Sgt. Phil Lakin.

Davidson had not been in Colorado for about year, but investigators had tracked him to Bluffton, S.C., said Lisa Pinto, spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office in Colorado's 18th Judicial Circuit.

"There was some indication he knew there was a warrant out for his arrest," Pinto said. "Certainly his behavior suggested he was trying to avoid capture."

Davidson's apparent suicide abruptly ends a criminal case that took investigators two years to build.

In 2007, Davidson got permission from the city to form a special district for the Landmark project, which included the condo towers and a planned "European village" featuring brownstone townhouses and manor homes. The district approved $31 million in bonds to pay for roads, sewers, landscaping and other infrastructure. The money would be repaid with property taxes levied within the district.

Over the next two years, Davidson embezzled some $3.1 million of that money, directing funds to his other companies and projects, according to the 20-count indictment.

The European village site is vacant land that will be sold and developed, Rakowsky said. The condos, which start at about $500,000 and top out about $2 million, are nearly full.

The District Attorney's Office will cooperate with any civil suit filed against Davidson's estate, Pinto said.

According to a 2007 story in the Denver Post, Davidson started his real estate career at NationsBank in North Carolina, spent a decade on Wall Street, and developed luxury condos in San Francisco during the dot-com boom. At the time of the profile, he was married with three children. He has since divorced, Pinto said.

Davidson boasted about the money he spent on parties promoting the Landmark project in Colorado.

"People say, 'Are you out of your mind?' That's what everyone has been telling me," he told the Post. "I said, 'It's okay if I lose some money, it's my money. I made it, God will take care of it.' "

Reach Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes and @HernandoTimes.

Comments
Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant.

Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant.

Two Gilchrist County sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed at a restaurant about 3 p.m. Thursday, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.The deputies were at Ace China restaurant in downtown Trenton when a man shot them through the rest...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro south on Interstate 275...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

LARGO — Detectives are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who broke into a home early Thursday morning and confronted the owners with a knife.The incident took place about 3:40 a.m. at a townhouse at 7360 Ulmerton Road, according to Largo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

SEMINOLE — A Seminole man was arrested on allegations that he burglarized a home, set it on fire and stole the homeowner’s dog, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Austin Lang, 19, now faces numerous charges of burglary, arson and poss...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: 15-year-old threatened attack on River Ridge High School

Deputies: 15-year-old threatened attack on River Ridge High School

NEW PORT RICHEY—A 15-year-old student was arrested Wednesday on allegations that he threatened to stage a shooting attack on River Ridge High School, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The student attended Schwettman Education Center, dep...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: 19-month-old child hospitalized after being found in pond

Deputies: 19-month-old child hospitalized after being found in pond

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 19-month-old child was taken to the hospital Thursday after being found in a pond, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies were called at 12:31 p.m. to the 4700 block of Crestknoll Drive.An adult was watching the c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

PINELLAS PARK — A 16-year-old was injured Thursday morning after being struck by a motorcycle on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 a.m. Austin Montgomery, 23, was riding his 2011 Suzuki motorcycle ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

TAMPA — A Leon County judge sentenced the son of former Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin on Monday to 60 days in jail for a role in the November hazing death of a 20-year-old Florida State University student. Christopher Hamlin, 20, was one o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

BROOKSVILLE — A 16-year-old boy was killed and a 17-year-old boy critically injured after their car was struck by a pick-up truck at the intersection of U.S. 19 and Country Road on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The cras...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/19/18
Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

LARGO — The Pasco-Pinellas state attorney cleared a Largo police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old man last month.The letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Officer Matthew Steiner was "in imminent fear for his life" during the March 23 e...
Published: 04/18/18