South Side grieves over murder-suicide

CHAMPAIGN — Counselors will be available at South Side School when classes resume next week to support the friends of a fourth-grader whose mother died violently on New Year's Eve.

South Side Principal Bill Taylor said Emily Davis, 34, was well-known and well-liked at the elementary school where her two daughters have both been students.

Taylor, 10, is in the fourth grade there, while Julia, 12, is now in the sixth grade at Edison Middle School.

"She had lots of friends here at South Side. They were just kind of a super family," said Taylor.

Mrs. Davis died of gunshots believed to have been inflicted by Jason Woods, 37, the father of her third child, a 3-month-old son.

Mr. Woods is believed to have then turned the gun on himself. He was pronounced dead at the house they shared on Honeysuckle Lane Monday morning. Mrs. Davis was pronounced dead at Carle Foundation Hospital's emergency room.

Police had been called to the home at 6:22 a.m. and found the two mortally wounded adults and the three children, who were physically unharmed.

Taylor said he visited with Mrs. Davis' daughters and other family members on Tuesday.

"They're sweet girls. They're strong and the family is really strong. I just wanted to let them know we're thinking about them and we're here to support the girls and the family," he said.

Mrs. Davis' aunt, Cindy Parnell, was a physical education teacher at South Side for 26 years before retiring last year, he said, so the South Side family is hurting on multiple levels.

Mrs. Davis, a pharmacy technician at the Walgreens at Springfield and Mattis avenues, was described as "feisty" by a fellow South Side parent and friend.

"She had a really tight group of friends," said Kerry Rossow, a room parent who said Mrs. Davis was always the first parent to respond to a need for anything, from chaperoning to food.

"She was a spitfire, a really feisty character," said Rossow, who like others at the school was shocked by the news of her and Mr. Woods' deaths.

Rossow recounted a tale of driving her children through the pharmacy pickup at Walgreens and laying on the buzzer on a day when Mrs. Davis was working.

"She thought it was someone being impatient. We heard (over the microphone) 'I hate you, Rossow.' We had a great laugh over that," Rossow said.

Rossow said Mrs. Davis, who had divorced the father of her girls, had somewhat of a whirlwind relationship with Mr. Woods. Police said they'd been in a dating relationship for about a year.

"When she first told us she was going to have this baby, she said, 'I'm happier than I've ever been in my life.' She was beaming and crazy for this baby," Rossow said.

Taylor said he and the school social worker Jan Bellington plan to speak to the fourth-graders as a whole.

"We'll talk about how sad it is when kids lose a parent and keep the conversation real general," he said, adding the focus will be on how the children can support Taylor.

Mrs. Davis' funeral service is at 11 a.m. Friday at Sunset Funeral Home, 710 N. Neil St., C.

Funeral services for Mr. Woods will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Freewill Baptist Church, 1402 W. Eads St., U.

Comments

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carterre wrote on January 04, 2013 at 12:01 am

WOW!!! Way to go News Gazette you finally found someone who was stupid enough to give you any attention and you ran with it.  This article has nothing to do with a grieving school but a hungry media monster that has nothing better to do then to keep dragging this story through the dirt. Look in the mirror and let her kids,family and friends begin to heal.

Joe American wrote on January 04, 2013 at 8:01 am

WOW!!!  Have you gone mad, or are you always like this, thinking only of yourself?  I happened to appreciate the article and the chance to read a tribute to someone I never got the opportunity to know, and rest assured I'm not alone on this.

If you don't want to read it, don't read it!  And I'm sure the others of whom you speak are big enough to make that decision on their own as well.

Oh, I'm curious, how well did you know them?

americanproud wrote on January 04, 2013 at 12:01 pm

There is NOTHING wrong with this story.  It is very respectful and sensitive toward both Ms. Davis, Mr. Woods, and their loved ones who survive.  The News-Gazette and Mary Schenk did a great job telling the story without being accusatory or insensitive toward anyone.  Those of us who feel immense sadness and sympathy for the family are appreciative to know that the community is coming together to support them. 

Marti Wilkinson wrote on January 04, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I will agree that the News-Gazette treated this story pretty well. I have a friend who lost his mother, when her spouse killed her, and he honors her memory by urging people to get help if they are in a situation that is turning bad.

I also looked up the history of Mr. Woods, on the circuit clerk site, and he had a record of being charged with criminal domestic battery, and I wonder if this tragedy might have been averted if he had gotten some help. I'm not saying this to disrepect Mr. Woods, but to point out that these tragic situations often have a history behind it. A "whirlwind romance" also carries some red flags as well. There was a gentleman who once expressed interest in me, and I chose to not get involved with him because his ex-wife had filed a restraining order against him. He had nothing nice to say about his ex-wife, and that was also a red flag. Granted, people don't break up because they are getting along, but I believe that adults ought to try to be civil when referring to former spouses and partners in a general conversation.
 

I do hope that the family and friends of both Mr. Woods and Ms. Davis find the support they need to get through this time. I also hope that we can find ways to reach out to people who are in difficult situations, so we can prevent future tragedies.