Missouri high court upholds death penalty in torture killing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the death sentence Tuesday for a man who killed two women in 2006 after videotaped sexual torture, rejecting his claims that he received ineffective counsel during his trial for the murder that sent him to death row.

The state’s high court unanimously rejected Richard Davis’ attempt to throw out his conviction for the suffocation of Marsha Spicer at Davis’ suburban Kansas City apartment. Davis, 51, and his then-girlfriend, Dena Riley, 49, later pleaded guilty to murder and other charges linked to the killing of 36-year-old Michelle Huff-Ricci. Riley, who already had admitted in court her role in Spicer’s death, is serving multiple life sentences.

Prosecutors have said Riley and Davis videotaped themselves assaulting the two women to fulfill the violent sexual fantasies of Davis, whose criminal history included a 1987 rape for which he spent nearly 18 years in prison.

The nude body of Spicer, 41, was found by a fisherman in a shallow grave in Lafayette County.

Authorities said that after Davis and Riley raped and tortured Huff-Ricci, they devised a plan to kill her because she knew where they lived and they feared she would contact police.

Davis tried unsuccessfully to strangle Huff-Ricci with a rope in Clay County woods, then covered her mouth and nose to suffocate her before leaving her nude, according to court records. The next day, Davis and Riley returned to that site, doused Huff-Ricci with lighter fluid and covered her with brush and ignited it.

In the appeal decided Tuesday, Davis’ pushed to have his convictions and death sentence in Spicer’s case thrown out, claiming his trial attorneys failed to press he was not mentally competent for the proceedings, insisting he was bipolar.

But the high court found that Davis did not cooperate with his defense team or the mental health experts retained to evaluate him, and that he failed to demonstrate he would have been found incompetent to stand trial.

Riley also is serving a federal life sentence in Kansas for kidnapping a 5-year-old southeastern Kansas girl during the eight days she and Davis were on the run before their capture in southwestern Missouri. Authorities have said the child had injuries consistent with sexual abuse.