Teen love triangle ends in tragedy
July 30, 1999
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. - After convicting Jacob
Davis of first-degree murder for the May 1998 shooting death of his
romantic rival Nick Creson, a Tennessee jury sentenced the 19-year-old
to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 51 years. Spared
life without parole, Davis will be at least 70 years old before he can
be released from prison.
In addition to first-degree murder, Davis also was
convicted of reckless endangerment and illegal weapons possession on
school property. He received a one-year sentence for those charges,
which will be served concurrently with his life sentence.
Love for one girl, Tonya Bishop, brought about the
shooting at Lincoln County High School and ended the lives of Creson and,
to an extent, Davis. An honor student with no prior criminal record,
Davis was angered when he learned Creson had slept with Bishop, and
prosecutors believed that rage prompted him to ponder — and carry out —
Davis’ attorneys did not deny that he killed Creson.
But they insisted Davis was so severely depressed over Bishop’s
infidelity that he suffered from diminished capacity and could not form
the intent to kill Creson. The defense, led by attorney Ray Fraley,
suggested that Davis did not fully realize what he was doing when he
shot Creson. Fraley sought a conviction of a lesser charge of second-degree
murder or manslaughter.
But prosecutors largely relied on letters Davis wrote
to Bishop and his physics teacher Tiffany Roberts to prove that he
planned Creson’s death. Before the shooting, Davis wrote a letter to
Bishop where he mentioned his desire to shoot Creson and write the
lyrics of a rock song on his truck in Creson’s blood. The letters,
prosecutors said, illustrated Davis’ murderous intent and jurors agreed.
Prosecution psychiatrists agreed that Davis suffered from depression at
the time of the slaying, but not so severely that he could not form
intent to kill.
During Davis’ sentencing, prosecutors sought life
without parole by alleging one aggravating factor, that he put the lives
of other students in danger when he killed Creson. Lincoln County High
School football coach Louis Thompson testified that dozens of students
were present when Davis shot Creson three times. In addition, a student
eyewitness, Brad Schrimsher, suggested that he could have been shot by
Davis when he told jurors that he felt something burn against his face
as Creson was gunned down.
However, at the sentencing, Davis’ mother, Phyllis
Davis, suggested to jurors that her son felt remorse after the shooting
and did not fully realize the consequences of his actions. Jacob, Mrs.
Davis testified, was in shock after the shooting and did not initially
know he had killed Creson. Correction officer Chris Thornton added that
Jacob Davis had been a "model prisoner" since his incarceration and that
he spends most of his time in isolation, drugged on antidepressants.
Since the incident, Bishop has moved away from her
Lincoln County community and settled in Alabama. Bishop claims she never
intended to be the cause of Creson’s murder, but some members of her now-former
community hold her responsible, at least in part, for the tragedy.
Robert Nicholas Creson
School Shooting Victim. Robert "Nick"
Creson, an 18-year-old member of the Lincoln County High School football
team in Fayetteville, Tennessee, was murdered in the school parking lot
the week of his pending graduation by classmate Jacob Davis.
Jacob was despondent that Nick Creson was dating his
girlfriend, Tonya Bishop. Davis left school about noon after an argument
with Creson over Tonya. Davis went home and got a .22-caliber rifle,
then returned to the parking lot to wait for Creson.
When Creson walked up shortly after 2 p.m., police
said Davis got out of his car and shot at him once from 15 to 20 feet
away. It's unclear whether the bullet struck Creson. Nick told him, 'Quit
messing around,'. The second shot hit him somewhere in the chest and he
fell backwards and there was another shot fired into Nick as he was on
the ground. Creson, wounded in the chest and abdomen, died a short time
later at a hospital.
The dozen or so students who witnessed the shooting
said Davis never uttered a word. He did, however, leave a two-page
letter in his car telling his mother and father how much he appreciated
them, and telling his girlfriend how much he loved her. He was basically
asking forgiveness for what he was about to do.
also found several photographs of Davis and his girlfriend in his car,
After the shooting, witnesses said Davis laid the
rifle on the pavement and sat with his head in his hands until police
came. He surrendered without further incident.
On July 29, 1999, a jury sentenced Davis to life in
prison with the chance of parole, turning aside the prosecution's pleas
for life without parole. State law requires that he serve at least 51
years before he will be eligible for release. Davis was 19 years old at
the time of his conviction.
This crime and it's
aftermath has been the subject of television documentaries on "American
Justice" and CourtTV. The November 28, 2000 episode of Dateline NBC was
centered around the case.
Jacob Davis in the yard of the South
Central Corrections Facility in Clifton, TN
(Photo: John Chiasson For TIME)
May 19, 1998: Emergency personnel
work on Robert "Nick" Creson, 18, after he was shot in a parking lot
behind Roy Clark Field House at Lincoln County High School in
Fayetteville, Tenn. Creson died about 15 minutes after being brought to
the hospital. According to police, student Jacob Davis, 18, shot Creson
in a dispute over a girl.
(Photo: Don Gill, The Elk Valley Times/AP)