It had been a year since Ned Davis last saw his eldest daughter, and it hadn’t been under the best of circumstances. Now she’s gone forever.
“It’s sort of like I lost her twice,” Jessie Davis’ father told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira during an exclusive interview on Monday just two days after his daughter’s body was recovered from a shallow grave in an Ohio park. Jessie Davis had been nine months pregnant with a baby girl.
The experience, he said in a second interview on TODAY with the show’s Hoda Kotb, “is obscenely painful.”
His son, Christopher, sat next to him, head bowed, unable to say anything more than, “It’s hard right now.”
“I’m hoping I wake up and find out it’s a bad dream,” added her cousin, Stephanie.
Ned Davis, square-jawed and with a graying crew cut, brought a picture of his seven children with him to the TODAY studio. Jessie had arranged for it to be taken and had given it to her father as a Christmas present. That was before Ned began the divorce proceedings that broke the family up.
“I haven’t seen Jessie since a year ago January in divorce court,” he said.
“Before that, this photo is the last Christmas gift from Jessie” — a picture of a family — “pretty much all that ever mattered.”
He broke down remembering the little girl who was his first of seven children, and then a moment later smiled at something she had done.
“Jessie was the consummate big sister,” he said. “She was the organizer of that picture.”
She was always organized, he said.
“When she was a little girl, before she could even write, her room’s immaculate, everything’s laid out, she’s ready to go, she’s writing on this little list,” he recounted, pantomiming with his hand a little girl pretending to write.
“What you doing honey,” he asked.
“I’m making my list,” she told her dad. “I’m making my list for tomorrow.”
She was also independent. When it came time to learn to ride a bike, she told him, “I can do it myself.”
Ned Davis lost control there, but a moment later was smiling at another memory of peanut butter crackers.
‘Flashes of anger’
“She’s traveled with me overseas. We were involved in an organization called Campus Crusade. In her junior year, she went to South Africa on a mission trip,” he said.
“I’m probably not processing this very well,” he told Vieira. “I have little flashes when I cry. I have flashes of anger. And then sometimes if something comes up and I laugh, I feel guilty for laughing.”
Jessie Davis was 26 years old. She was working for Allstate Insurance, a single mom raising a two-year-old son, Blake, and pregnant with a daughter she had already named Chloe who was due to be born on July 3.
Blake’s father was a Canton police officer, Bobby Cutts, Jr. It is believed that he was also the father of her unborn daughter. Cutts was arrested after Davis’ body was found and is to be arraigned today on murder charges. Police also arrested a woman described as a former classmate of Cutts, Myisha Ferrell, on charges of obstruction of justice.
Darker side of Cutts
Nikki Giavasis had dated Cutts a decade ago and had a child with him. In an appearance on TODAY, she said that “people should know there’s a darker side to him. He continually harassed and stalked me, threatened me, physically abused me. Over the course of 10 years he really terrorized me, from breaking into my home all the way to putting me in a neck brace.”
He threatened her over the phone as recently as January, she said, urging women in abusive relationships to speak out and get help. In a second interview with TODAY's Natalie Morales, Giavasis said that when she heard about Davis' disappearance, “my gut told me immediately this was the man to look for.”
TODAY legal consultant Jeanine Pirro, a former prosecutor and judge, observed that “you're more likely to be killed by an intimate. In many cases, we see the battery starts the first time while she's pregnant.”
Pirro noted that Cutts was charged with felony assault on Gervaisis in 1998, but was convicted on a lesser misdemeanor count. Two years later, he was hired by the Canton Police Department. He was subsequently fired, she said, but a federal arbitrator ordered him reinstated.
Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and author of “Till Death Do Us Part: Lofe, Marriage and the Mind of the Killer Spouse,” said on TODAY that Cutts probably felt that he was the victim when first Giavasis and then Davis left him.
“Clearly this guy did not have control over his aggressive impulses,” she said.
He threatened Giavasis over the phone as recently as January, she said, urging women in abusive relationships to speak out and get help.
‘He misses his mom’
Ned Davis wouldn’t talk about whether he ever suspected that Cutts could be similarly violent with his daughter.
“In this story, the pain which can’t be quantified, a chapter is closed,” he said.
Son is Jessie Davis was last seen on June 13. Two days later, he mother, Patty Porter, came looking for her and found Blake alone in the house.
“Mommy was crying,” the toddler told police. “ Mommy broke the table.”
“Mommy’s in rug.”
For more than a week as many as 4,000 volunteers joined the search for Jessie. Patty Porter called her former husband, a National Guardsman, who joined the hunt.
“It’s been at best, it’s been very very difficult,” Ned Davis said. “I don’t believe I can really quantify what our family’s feeling. I’m somewhere right between grief and gratitude. The loss of Jessie’s just been overwhelming.”
He shook his head thinking about all the people who joined the search. Cousins drove in from Pennsylvania. Neighbors who didn’t even know her. “Old women, young women, old men, young men — just a cross section. My battalion commander was out there,” he said. “I’m finding out words are pretty weak vessels to say, ‘Thank you.’”
His grandson is well cared for, he said.
“He loves his mom. He misses his mom. Blake has got a tremendous family. There’s a community that’s shown an amazing capacity for love,” he said.
On Saturday, his former wife, Patty, handed Blake to his grandfather.
“She put him in my arms and 25 years just passed away,” he said. “And I’m looking at Jessie, the mouth, the eyes, the lips, the smile — that was Jessie.”