Her children were acting differently; her ex-husband was acting differently.
Things suddenly became unusual leading up to the June 16 attack, which prosecutors claim was an attempt by the children and their father to take the 45-year-old Lawrence woman’s life.
“Everything was a little too calm,” she testified on Tuesday at her ex-husband’s trial, which is being heard this week by a Douglas County jury.
The victim said her 15-year-old son struck her repeatedly with a baseball bat, initiating a lengthy late-night struggle that involved her ex-husband eventually showing up at her home, breaking inside her locked bathroom and encouraging the beating to continue.
“My life was in danger,” she said. “I considered any blow to the head could be possibly fatal.”
The ex-husband, Arthur Davis III, 61, is accused of attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping and contributing to a child’s misconduct.
Prosecutors have offered to reduce a charge of attempted first-degree murder against the son to aggravated battery as part of a plea deal. He is being tried separately as a juvenile.
The alleged attack came amid a heated child custody dispute and three nights after the ex-husband and the children learned a parenting evaluation suggested that their 12-year-old daughter should continue living with the mother instead of with the defendant, who had been trying to gain custody of her.
During the trial Tuesday, the victim explained the events leading up to the attack, which, as pictures in court showed, left her with a gash in her head, and blood and bruising all over her face and head, as well as bruises on her body. Her testimony:
• Two nights before the attack, she said, her ex-husband brought the children by the house to pick up bats so they could go to the batting cages, something they had never done before. They later returned home with the bats.
• One night before the attack, the victim said, her daughter told her that she had seen someone at the back door of the home, in the 1100 block of Hilltop Drive, and had scared them off.
• On the evening of the attack, she said, the son had stopped by and hung out for about an hour, something he hadn’t done in a long time. The son and mother had grown apart when he started spending more and more time with the defendant.
• Later that night, the victim said, her ex-husband called to ask her about taking the daughter to voice lessons the next morning, and was in a “jovial” mood, when he was “usually agitated” and did not encourage his children to attend school, but instead to stay home and play video games.
Later that night the woman allegedly woke to her son beating her with a baseball bat.
A 911 call made by the mother during the struggle indicates she was out of breath and that her husband showed up during the attack and broke into her bathroom, prosecutors said. They said the defendant can be heard on the recording yelling “harder, harder, harder,” encouraging the son to strike her harder with the bat.
After running in a circle through the house, the victim said, she was eventually able to escape her son and the defendant. She ran nude down the street until police arrived to assist her and arrest the son and defendant.
Defense attorney Greg Robinson has said Davis was not responsible for the attack. The victim said she did not see Davis during the 20- to 30-minute struggle with the son, but only when he allegedly broke into her bathroom.
The daughter, who is now 13, is expected to testify against her father, after being granted immunity by prosecutors and in exchange for dropping a conspiracy to commit murder charge against her. She has been living out of state with an aunt after being released from custody.
Prosecutors have said the son will not testify in the case.
During cross-examination of the victim Tuesday, Robinson tried to poke holes in the woman’s parenting practices, indicating times the girl was tardy and absent from school under the victim’s care and a time the victim called her daughter a derogatory name.
Davis' trial will resume Wednesday morning. Check back at LJWorld.com for continuing coverage.