Ralph Davis bears no ill will, no malice, to the two young men who beat him, tortured him and nearly killed him.
Davis, a pastor and radio station owner, was nearly beaten to death by two young men who attacked him in his station last December. Eugene Howard III was tried and convicted in August and Chris Thomas was convicted earlier this week in Effingham County Superior Court.
The second trial was tougher on Davis because he couldn’t identify Thomas as one of the attackers.
“The other guy I saw,” he said Thursday afternoon. “The questions were tougher.”
For two and a half hours last Dec. 4, Davis was savagely beaten. The fingers on his right hand were broken by a hammer and he was also hit in the head. Howard and Thomas also put a plastic bag over his head and tried to choke him with an electrical cord. They also attempted to stab him in his jugular vein with a razor blade, but the blade broke.
“It’s a very unusual story and you read it and you say, ‘This makes absolutely no sense,’” Davis said.
Davis’ ring finger on his right hand was beaten so badly it was severed at the tip. He calls his little finger “the shrimp,” and he has only 15 percent to 20 percent use of it. He has gone through seven months of rehabilitation.
Aside from his hand, Davis says he is in good health.
“I have some memory things from time to time as a result of the blows to my head,” he said. “I’m 65 years old. I guess I’m supposed to have some memory loss anyway. But I have a keen mind.”
Before the attack, he did his broadcast or taught lessons without having to refer to notes. Now, he does.
While Howard and Thomas beat him, poured bleach in his eyes, choked him and attempted to stab him, Davis said he kept telling them the same thing.
“While I was being beaten and tortured, I told them I loved them and that Jesus loved them and that’s not going to change, and it hasn’t changed,” he said. “I have no hatred toward them.
“You’re either bitter or you’re better. This is something in my life that happened and God spared my life.”
Davis said he tried to visit Howard in jail, trying to “win him over to Jesus Christ.” He didn’t get to see him because he was in lockdown, Davis said.
“That’s my mentality,” he said. “I’m a happy person. I’m a glass half full kind of person. I’m not a negative person.”
Crime’s heavy penalty
Howard and Thomas were each convicted of eight Class A felonies — three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of aggravated battery, one count of kidnapping and one count of theft.
Their take from their crime was $35, before they were caught. Their sentences are two life terms plus 120 years each.
The life terms are calculated to be 35 years apiece, giving each man 190 years in prison with no possibility of parole.
“What was it all about? Thirty-five dollars? A transmitter? Taking over a radio station?” Davis said “Because of a whim, it winds up with two men with 380 years collectively in prison.”
Davis was reassured by their sentence, not because of what they did to him, but because of what might have happened to someone else had they still been loose.
“Justice was served. I am quite thankful they are going to be out of circulation, not because of Ralph Davis — they were going to kill me — but someone else was going to get killed,” he said. “Justice was carried out. There was closure to justice.”
Before the trials were over and the sentencing handed out, Davis couldn’t say everything about what happened. He can now and he remains interested in what happens to Howard and Thomas.
“I don’t have any animosity. I’m interested in their eternal destiny,” he said. “Their physical destiny has been signed and sealed.”
Thomas complained during sentencing that his prison term was too severe for what he did.
“He never took my life into consideration,” Davis said. “They didn’t learn anything themselves.”
The ordeal has been difficult on his family, particularly on his wife, as Davis sometimes has to stop and think about what he has said and is about to say.
“My wife has been a trouper,” he said. “She’s been a very good mate. She has been strong through my weak times.”
He also praised the work of the jury, the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit district attorney’s office, the Effingham County sheriff’s investigators and the Springfield police.
“They did a wonderful job,” he said.
Not simply because of what happened to him but also because of the violent times, Davis said he is more cautious now.
“This is Mayberry RFD,” he said. “Who would ever think someone would go into a radio station and beat the living daylights out of somebody and was going to kill me after dark.”
In the first trial, the judge told Davis, “I’m looking at you in total amazement. You should be a dead man.”
‘A better person’
The experience has made him a better person, Davis believes. He also wants his example of love to be the standing memory of all that has happened.
“I’ve always been compassionate. It’s made me more compassionate,” he said. “It has made me much more understanding of others and their suffering. You can’t say you’re unaffected. I have been affected, but I think it’s for the good. I don’t hate anybody.
“People ask me, ‘How can you love these guys?’ I started off loving them, didn’t I?”