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Doctor's wife charged in his death

At the funeral of her slain husband last month, Denise Davidson seemed every bit the grieving widow, comforting the couple's 8-year-old daughter and accepting condolences from the priest.

Friday, she became a defendant.

Davidson, 34, was arrested Friday morning while she waited at Tampa International Airport to board a plane for her native Jamaica. She was charged by St. Petersburg police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with paying $14,511 to a Jamaican hit man to have her estranged husband, Louis, killed.

Police spokesman Bill Doniel said detectives, who were following Mrs. Davidson, watched early Friday as she bought a ticket on an American Airlines flight to Miami, with a connection from there to Kingston, Jamaica.

Mrs. Davidson, toting a single piece of carry-on luggage and clad in a sweater, black stirrup pants and aerobic sneakers, went to Gate 77 in Airside F. She was sitting quietly when Detective Michael Celona and FDLE Special Agent Doug Pitts approached her chair.

"She looked up and saw Detective Celona, who had questioned her earlier in the case, and said something like "What are you doing here?,' " Doniel said. "At that point, the arrest was made."

Mrs. Davidson was charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 25 slaying of her estranged husband, St. Petersburg physician Louis Alexander Davidson. She was being held without bail Friday evening at the Pinellas County Jail.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, her lawyer denied Mrs. Davidson had anything to do with the killing and called the state's case against her thin.

The Davidsons, who had met in Jamaica, were going through a bitter divorce. Dr. Davidson, head of the pediatric emergency unit at Bayfront Medical Center, moved out of their north Tampa home and into an apartment in St. Petersburg's Thunderbay complex.

It was there, on the morning of Jan. 25, that he was beaten, then forced under water in his bathtub. His hands were bound with a cashmere belt.

Robert Roy Gordon, 31, a Jamaican citizen living in Miami, was arrested Wednesday and charged with committing the murder. He also remains in the Pinellas County Jail, held without bail.

In an arrest affidavit filed Friday in Mrs. Davidson's case, police said someone in her home placed 55 calls to the telephone number for Gordon's pager. All of the calls were made during a two-hour period around the time Dr. Davidson was killed.

The affidavit also said Mrs. Davidson paid Gordon $14,511 between November 1993 and February. It's not clear how police know that. Doniel said that the investigation was continuing and that he would release only sketchy information until it was complete.

Mrs. Davidson's lawyer, John Fitzgibbons of Tampa, said he was shocked by the arrest affidavit. He said Mrs. Davidson denied having anything to do with her husband's death.

"This is about as thin a case as the state could bring," Fitzgibbons said. "I don't believe the state would even be able to bring this case to a jury."

Doniel said more information may come later.

"I'm sure he is doing what he feels is proper to defend his client," Doniel said of Fitzgibbons. "But as I have said all along, this is a very involved case and there may be further developments in the investigation."

Doniel acknowledged police arrested Mrs. Davidson sooner than they had planned. But, he said, when she bought a ticket for Jamaica, detectives felt it was necessary to keep her in the country.

"Anytime someone is trying to leave the country, there is cause for concern," Doniel said.

Mrs. Davidson, manager for a Tampa citrus company, alleged in the divorce that her husband beat her and their daughter. Davidson denied those charges in court.

The couple was scheduled for a divorce hearing the week he was killed. Friends of Dr. Davidson said he was looking forward to the divorce and was making plans to marry a nurse from Bayfront.

Fitzgibbons said the couple's daughter has been staying with friends since her mother's arrest. The child was not planning to go with her mother to Jamaica, a trip Fitzgibbons said was planned so Mrs. Davidson could visit family _ not to avoid arrest.

Wednesday evening, police served a search warrant on Mrs. Davidson and went through her Hampton Village home.

Fitzgibbons said police were after "ridiculous" things, including a to-do list of errands Mrs. Davidson had written for herself.

Since Dr. Davidson was killed, St. Petersburg police have traveled several times to Miami and spent weeks tracking leads. At one point, 25 detectives from St. Petersburg and seven FDLE agents were working on the investigation.

In a letter to the state Violent Crimes Council, a group that reviews requests for state aid to local law enforcement, Chief Darrel Stephens said his department already had spent $166,695 more than was budgeted for overtime in the six weeks since the killing.

The city has asked the state to pay $84,295 of that total.