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.