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No Bail in Polk County First-Degree Murder Case

Joshua Davis was denied bail by a Polk County judge this week. Davis faces two charges of first-degree murder, one charge of attempted murder and one charge of child abuse in the deaths of two Polk State College students and injuring another in front of his 6-year-old daughter earlier this week.

Joe S. Palacios and Christian Rodriguez, both 19, were killed and Esteban Zavala, also 19, is in serious but stable condition at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

According to law enforcement, Davis told investigators he and the victims were smoking marijuana together, and he shot them to protect his daughter, although police found no evidence the attack was provoked. Davis, Palacios, Rodriguez and Zavala all reportedly worked at a local McDonald’s together.

The four were sitting in Davis’ living room on Tuesday evening when Davis’ daughter entered from her bedroom, according to a police affidavit. Davis said his guests began acting strange and he got a “dark feeling,” he told investigators. The police affidavit states that Davis “felt they were sending signals to each other. His daughter walked out and Rodriguez and Palacios said something in Spanish while looking at his daughter.”

Davis told investigators he thought “something was about to happen” so he ran to his bedroom and retrieved his 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and began shooting at Zavala, Rodriguez and Palacios. Davis shot Rodriguez and Palacios in the head at close range, investigators said.

Davis and Zavala struggled until the gun was empty. Davis got knives from the kitchen to “finish off” Zavala, who fled from the home. Zavala was found staggering on Central Avenue by a police officer, according to the affidavit.

Davis’ daughter told a detective with the Child Protection Team that she heard arguing when she came out of her bedroom, then saw her father come out of his room with a gun. She said she saw her father shoot the men after she ran under a coffee table to hide, the police affidavit said.

The State has yet indicated any intention to pursue the death penalty in the case. If prosecutors don’t seek execution, Davis would face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.


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