The Reluctant Witness

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As her children grew a little older, she took the first of what would be a steady line of jobs: as a counselor in pre-trial release at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, then as a counselor at a state jail in Hutchins and later, teaching. Her sister, Beverly Ware, says Sharon might have had a better career history were it not for a lack of confidence and poor self-esteem.

A friend, Mary Jordan, says Sharon dabbled in jazz singing, drawing and loved going to the theater but mainly was wrapped up in raising Ronnie and Autumn. "When we were out, we'd talk about her kids, girl-type things. She was crazy about her kids," Jordan says. Ron was always a gentleman when she and her husband would visit for dinner, she says. That impression would change when Sharon got to know her better and began telling things about life at home.

"Sharon really wanted to be married," her sister says. "I think that's because we basically grew up in a single-parent household." Even when the marriage soured after about five years and the birth of Ronnie and Autumn, Sharon hung in there because she didn't want her children growing up without a dad, the sister says.

Their mother worked constantly, Autumn and Ronnie say, and was made to pay half the household expenses from her own earnings, which she told several friends Davis made her keep in her own accounts after the aborted separation in 1985.

With his influential friends, family and neighbors say, Davis projected himself as a wealthy, connected man. At home, he was known for scrimping on everything for the family: clothes, cars, even pots and pans, which were so old that some didn't have handles, several relatives say. "The cake's your present," says Ronnie, describing a lot of birthdays. "That's what he'd say."

"He was very, very, very cheap, but she was, too," says Sharon's sister, who recalls the family pinning clothes on a line to avoid running the dryer. "You can count up on one hand the number of women who would put up with that. She was one of them."

But putting up was not easy.

Behind closed doors, the children say, their father was controlling, ill-tempered and so dismissive of their mother that they came to see it as mental abuse. "He would play mental games...like tell her she couldn't do stuff," says Autumn, who with her brother says her mother suffered a lack of confidence and was easily hurt by Ron's verbal slights. "When she wanted to become a principal, he was like, 'What are you talking about?' Like she couldn't do it."

Their aunt Reida, known to the family as Precious, says she witnessed Sharon's meekness during a visit to her brother's house in about 1990. "One day we were down there, and he had this book of checks. He said, 'I need you to sign the first two checks.' She said, 'What is this for?' He said, 'Look, either sign the checks or don't sign the checks,' and he just threw it on the table and walked away. She was so nervous. She sat there for a while and composed herself. She was a nervous kind of person. I said, 'I'd never sign blank checks.' She just went ahead and signed them. He could intimidate her. Oh, he could intimidate her."

Both Ronnie and Autumn say they remember the day about two years ago when their father declared to the whole family that he no longer loved his wife. "He used to put her down," Ronnie says. "When I was 18 or 19, we were sitting down eating dinner, and we were having some kind of family discussion, and, you know, my mom and my dad got into a fight about something. And he just said, 'I love my kids. I don't love you.' My sister got up and just ran out crying. She couldn't believe he said something to her like that. My mom froze. She completely didn't say anything."

Ronnie says he and his father launched into an argument, which his father ended by leaving the table. "At the time, I was actually proud of my mom, because normally it would affect her. She would go and cry and stuff. And I was looking at her; I was like, 'Well, Mama, you didn't--you're not crying; it's not affecting you.' She said, 'Well, Ronnie, after all these years, I know he doesn't love me.' And then I was like, 'You know what? I know you're strong. Next time, just make sure you talk back. Next time, make sure you defend yourself.'"

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec

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