Man beats neighbor to death with hammer, tries to set building on fire, police say

man beats neighbor to death with hammer tries to set apartment building on fire
Source: Rock Island County Sheriff's Office, GoFundMe

Sep. 27 2021, Published 12:37 p.m. ET

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An Illinois man beat his neighbor with a hammer and then tried to cover it up by setting the apartment building on fire, police say.

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On Sept. 17, police said 39-year-old Ward Davis hit 54-year-old Julie Bowser Shell “multiple times with a hammer” during a fight at the Pineview Apartment in Milan, Illinois, WQAD reported.

According to authorities, the assault caused severe head trauma. Shell was hospitalized in critical condition and died about five days later.

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Charlie Locke, a resident at the apartment complex, was the person that called 911 on the day of the incident. He said he saw smoke and found a burning gas can inside the apartment laundry room, according to WQAD.

Shortly after that, he saw Bowser lying unresponsive on the ground, about 20 feet from her apartment door, WQAD reported.

Davis was arrested on the same day and charged with aggravated battery, according to authorities.

After Bowser died, the charge was upgraded to murder and an additional charge of attempted aggravated arson was added on Sept. 24, officials said. His bond was set at $1 million.

Bowser was a fun, loving, strong and fearless woman who leaves behind three children and eight grandchildren, according to the GoFundMe her family set up to celebrate her life.

"Though Julie battled addiction and mental illness most her life, she was overcoming her demons these past few years," The family wrote. "She is now free of those torments and her soul is at peace with the Lord she loves."

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