A Kansas man fatally beat and raped a mother of four before setting her on fire. Now, he will never walk free again.
Last month, a Sedgwick County District Court judge sentenced Cornell McNeal to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the beating, rape, and burning death of Letitia Davis.
After a weeklong trial, McNeal was found guilty and convicted by a jury of capital murder. Despite the option of a death penalty, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennet decided to pursue a life sentence without parole to move the case along and provide closure for the family.
“The sentence today was the culmination of the hard work and dedication of first responders, investigators, and witnesses. We are pleased the family of Ms. Davis is finally able to put this chapter behind them,” said Bennet, according to KAKE.
On Nov. 14, 2014, first responders and officers responded to Fairmount Park near 17th Street North and Hillside in Wichita, Kansas, after reports of a woman beaten and burnt. Upon arrival, they found Davis bloodied and burnt over 70 percent of her body.
According to prosecutors, Davis had been walking home after a social gathering at a friend’s home. Later, McNeal, who had no connection to the victim, attacked Davis, slamming her face repeatedly to the ground. Then, the defendant raped the 36-year-old mother of four and set her on fire with a flammable liquid and a borrowed lighter.
Soon, neighbors around the park heard a woman's screams before they found the victim naked and bloodied in a ring of fire. Davis was rushed to the hospital but died from her injuries eight days later.
During the investigation, authorities found semen on Davis’ body, which led Wichita police to the arrest of McNeal several days later after his DNA was linked to the crime scene.
On the other hand, McNeal’s defense team argued during the trial for an acquittal. They claimed the defendant’s semen only proved their client had sex with the victim but did not prove he beat and set her on fire.
The jury disagreed.
Davis’ family members described the victim as a vibrant individual who was always peaceful.
“She was happy-go-lucky, smiling all the time, and that’s what we miss seeing, hearing her voice. She was never an angry person. Just always cheerful and in my heart, that’s what I remember,” said Davis’ father, Jeffrey Donnley, reported KSN.com.