Sterrett man charged with capital murder

Published 11:19 am Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The man who was named a person of interest in the death of a Sterrett woman has been charged with one count of capital murder.

Randy O’Neal Davidson, 28, also of Sterrett, appeared before a St. Clair County judge Tuesday. A preliminary hearing is set May 19, said St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor.

Davidson is suspected to have strangled 62-year-old Diane Donahoo Rice with a wire or string-like object. Rice’s body was found April 7 in a wooded area off Camp Winnataska Road in St. Clair County.

Rice was reported missing after leaving a house in the 16000 block of Highway 55 in Sterrett April 3. She was a live-in caretaker of an elderly man.

Davidson was arrested April 6 in Jefferson County at a truck stop off Interstate 65. Sheriff’s deputies arrested him as he approached Rice’s missing car, a 2003 white Ford Taurus.

Davidson is being held on $200,000 bond at the Shelby County Jail on previous charges of burglary and theft of property. Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry said Davidson is suspected to have burglarized a home in the Sterrett community April 2.

Davidson may also face charges of assault, burglary, attempted rape and animal cruelty in Jefferson County. Davidson allegedly broke into a Jefferson County home brandishing a machete knife, strangled a kitten in front of children and tried to sexually assault a 27-year-old woman, authorities say.

Curry said Davidson and Rice lived within six miles of each other. The elderly man who lived with Rice said a man came to his house complaining of car trouble the day Rice disappeared. Authorities suspect Davidson is that man.

St. Clair and Shelby County authorities are now determining whether Davidson will remain jailed in Columbiana or be transferred to St. Clair County, said Shelby County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ken Burchfield.

Shelby County authorities are also questioning a Sterrett woman in relation to Rice’s death. Kayce Allen Johnson was arrested April 8 on charges of hindering the prosecution. She is being held on $100,000 bond at the Shelby County Jail.

Johnson is either a current or past girlfriend of Davidson, authorities say. No additional charges are expected to be filed against Johnson.

The case remains under investigation.