Debra Davis didn't live long enough to witness a York County judge throw the book at her estranged husband for violently attacking her, then arranging to have her intimidated into dropping the assault charges against him.
But a number of her family members sat quietly in court as Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock called Ronald S. Davis Sr.'s conduct "despicable" and ignored a pre-sentence investigation's recommendation that Davis serve less than a year in county prison.
He sentenced Davis, 56, formerly of the 1600 block of Rainbow Circle in West Manchester Township, to 46 to 92 months in state prison, followed by six years of probation. The judge also ordered Davis to have no contact with the family members of Debra Davis.
"He seems to view people as something to be used and controlled for his own ends," Trebilcock said of Davis when handing down his sentence. "He essentially treated his wife like property."
Smirked: The judge noted Davis has shown no remorse and even smirked during trial while listening to a recorded prison phone call during which he admitted he "beat the s--" out of his wife.
"The defendant seemed to be drawing pleasure from the reference as the tape played," Trebilcock said.
Davis spoke in court during his Monday-morning sentencing hearing, admitting he has failed to show any remorse for assaulting and intimidating his estranged wife. He claimed that's not because he didn't love her.
"It's just I really haven't realized she's gone," he said.
Davis said he was sorry for his conduct, but added, "Here again, there are two sides to every story."
Judge Trebilcock later indicated he didn't find Davis' claim of remorse to be genuine.
'Cowardly': He said Davis was "willing to use anyone, including his own family members" to maintain control over his victim. Trebilcock called it "a despicable and cowardly act" to involve his own son in witness intimidation.
The state attorney general's office prosecuted Davis because Darryl Albright, the victim's brother, is chief county detective in York County.
Albright spoke in court prior to sentencing and described his sister as a "beautiful, incredible woman" who was physically, mentally and emotionally abused by Ronald Davis Sr. and "his mind-controlling orders" during their decade-long marriage.
"The more he controlled her, the more she feared him," Albright said.
Medical issues: Debra Davis, 51, died Jan. 13 of complications from liver failure, according to her family.
"She had cancer three times and survived," sister Brenda Myers said, but the chemotherapy destroyed her liver and she required monthly hospitalizations.
Myers called Ronald Davis a monster who put her sister through years of abuse.
Sabrina Ward, the victim's adult daughter, recalled in court how her former stepfather "constantly belittled my mother and myself" and treated her mother like she wasn't worth anything.
"He did everything he could to keep my mom away from me because (he claimed) I was a bad influence," Ward said.
The background: Ronald Davis lured his estranged wife home on Jan. 16, 2012, by threatening to put her elderly Boston terrier out in the cold.
Once Debra Davis returned home, he beat and assaulted her, documents state, which led to a police standoff.
After being arrested, Ronald Davis refused to say where he hid the gun he'd brandished, but it was later found in a child's toy box, according to the judge.
Davis was charged with rape, aggravated assault, simple assault and making terroristic threats, then committed to county prison in lieu of bail. Charging documents stated he tried to rape Debra Davis, but was unable to perform.
While imprisoned awaiting trial, Davis spoke on the phone a number of times to his adult son and instructed him to visit Debra Davis and convince her to drop the charges.
Prison calls: Between May 10 and June 2, had several phone conversations with his son, Ronald Davis Jr., who is an active member of the military and was home on leave.
"If she refused to testify they can't do anything because without her there is nothing," the elder Davis told his son, court documents state.
He also made a number of incriminating statements, police said, including, "I should have killed her, I should have just pulled the f--ing trigger and blew her f--ing brains out."
In that case, the elder Davis was charged with two counts of witness intimidation and one count each of conspiracy to intimidate a witness and using a communication device (the prison phone) to plan a crime.
Jury's decision: On March 15, a jury found him guilty of all charges in the intimidation case, but only of simple assault for the attack.
That's because Debra Davis had died two months earlier, and her condition had deteriorated too quickly for authorities to videotape her making the allegations. She was the only witness who could tell jurors about the alleged attempted rape.
Deputy attorney general Daniel Dye said Ronald Davis Jr. wasn't charged because he cooperated with police and didn't intend to intimidate his stepmother.
Dye said his office decided to move forward with the assault charges even though the sole witness had died.
"There was just no way we were going to give up," he said, because the defendant's conduct was too egregious.
Davis is a danger to the public, according to Trebilcock and Dye.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.