Update: A trail of domestic violence two years long led to Yamisha Thomas’ shallow grave at an illegal dump in Phenix City.
Since 2009 she had reported confrontations with Sylvester Davis, the ex-boyfriend convicted Friday of her 2011 murder. A Russell County jury accepted the prosecution’s argument the jealous and jilted lover finally snapped on April 21, 2011, killing Thomas and concealing the body with a thin layer of dirt and concrete beneath a discarded mattress off Third Street South.
The jury deliberated less than an hour before finding Davis guilty. Circuit Court Judge Al Johnson scheduled a pre-sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. Nov. 15. Assistant District Attorney Max Smith told Johnson he plans to show Davis has three prior felonies.
Smith later said Davis could face from 19½ to 85 years in prison under new sentencing guidelines that took effect Oct. 1. Defense attorney Walter Gray lamented that the jury believed the testimony of a “jailhouse snitch,” an informant named Jerry Wayne Foster, whom Gray did not think credible.
Smith, who prosecuted Davis with the help of legal assistant Katherine Barry, said Foster’s testimony was consistent and candid. It was Foster who helped investigators crack the case, leading them to Thomas’ body on May 23, 2011, about a month after she was reported missing.
Smith and Barry said Foster, who helped Davis deal drugs, was wanted on drug charges when Davis enlisted his aid after the homicide, first getting Foster to help him move Thomas’ vehicle from Phenix City to Columbus, to cover his tracks.
Then Davis took Foster to Thomas’ body and asked for help concealing it. At that point Foster refused and left, they said, returning to his native Tuskegee, Ala., where Macon County authorities soon arrested him on outstanding warrants.
Foster was in the Macon County jail when he saw some Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents he knew and told them he could lead them to a body in Phenix City, and he did.
It was a gruesome crime scene. Thomas, 30, was 5 feet 2 inches tall, yet Davis didn’t take the time to cover the entire body.
He used an existing depression in the ground where water had drained into a nearby creek. He deepened the hole only to around 18 or 24 inches, then dumped the body, covered it with soil and with concrete likely mixed up at the grave site, and put a mattress atop it. The body’s left foot remained exposed from calf to toes, Barry said.
Insects were swarming the site when Foster led investigators there. They used DNA testing to confirm the body was Thomas’.
The day before she disappeared, Thomas and Davis were seen together at a Boost Mobile store on South Lumpkin Road in Columbus and at a clothing store and restaurant in Phenix City.
Checking Davis’ cell phone records, authorities saw he had traveled all over the county the day Thomas died, driving from Fort Mitchell to north Phenix City, possibly gathering what he needed to dispose of the body.
They also learned he had just bought Thomas a new cell phone, enraged she was calling other men on her old one. She had a new boyfriend, a Fort Benning soldier, with whom she hoped to move when he was reassigned.
One of the first calls she made on her new phone was to her new beau, with whom she had a date. Smith and Barry said Davis called her new phone 80 times while she was out with her new love. They believe a confrontation followed, during which an enraged Davis killed her.
It was the violent end of a series of domestic disputes between the two. Prosecutors backtracked this list of previous police reports:
On Feb. 27, 2010, Columbus police were told Thomas kept getting harassing phone calls from Davis.
On Nov. 14, 2009, Columbus police charged Davis with criminal trespass after he came to Thomas’ home to harass her, then fled from officers, causing a chase that ended in a wreck.
On Oct. 23, 2009, Columbus police charged Davis with robbery after he charged up to Thomas’ vehicle, reached in and took her cell phone. She told officers he had a gun in his waistband. The offense later was reduced to theft by taking.
On Oct. 21, 2009, Davis would not let Thomas leave her driveway. Columbus police charged him with stalking and criminal trespass.
On Oct. 14, 2009, Columbus police charged Davis with aggravated assault, armed robbery and theft after he choked and pistol-whipped Thomas at the Super 8, 2935 Warm Springs Road, where he took her cell phone. These offenses were reduced to theft by taking and battery.
On Sept. 4, 2009, Columbus police reported Davis took Thomas’ cell phone while at the Circle K store at 3010 Buena Vista Road.
On Jan. 14, 2009, Phenix City police reported Davis hit Thomas in the face and head on Brickyard Road. Davis was arrested Aug. 17, 2010, and pleaded not guilty Sept. 14, 2010, when he was ordered to have no more contact with Thomas. On Oct. 21, 2010, the case was dropped when Thomas declined to prosecute.
Here are today's earlier trial reports:
It took a Russell County jury only an hour to deliberate and find Sylvester Davis guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend Yamisha Thomas. His presentencing hearing is set for 9 a.m. Nov. 15. Prosecution says he has three prior felonies.
Original story: A Russell County jury will start deliberation Friday morning in the week long murder trial of Sylvester Davis, the man accused of burying his ex-girlfriend Yamisha Thomas in a shallow grave in Phenix City.
Circuit Court Judge Albert Johnson dismissed the jury at 4:30 p.m. Thursday after an evening of closing arguments from prosecutor Max Smith and Davis’ attorney Walter Gray III.
Thomas, 30, of Columbus was reported missing on April 22, 2011, after she had been seen with Davis at a Boost Mobile store on South Lumpkin Road in Columbus, a clothing store and restaurant in Phenix City. Her body was found in a shallow grave more than a month later on May 23 in a wooded lot off Third Street South.