Murder victims’ family speaks out against retrial

Murder victims' family speaks out after a retrial was set for the murder of a mother and daughter in 1996 in Clifton.
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 5:51 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Janet Davis and her daughter, Jennifer Davis, were both found murdered in their Clifton home in 1996. Twenty-six years later, the man convicted of the murder is scheduled to get a retrial, and the family of the two victims is speaking out against it.

Janet’s oldest daughter, Heather Evans, was 19 at the time of her murder. She says she remembers her mom as a hard-working woman who was a good provider for her family.

“My mom was a very, very hard worker,” said Evans. “She was a nurse...so she worked a lot of crazy hours, shifts at the V.A. Hospital in Grand Junction. But yeah, she was working a lot just to support us.”

She remembers her younger sister as someone who was full of life.

“She’s very beautiful. She’s very smart. She was very social. She liked animals. She had a pet gerbil. She was just a great sister all around,” stated Evans. “I was kind of like her second mom.”

Jennifer was 11-years-old at the time of the murders. But it wasn’t until 2001 that Verle Mangum was charged with the crime.

In 2003, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Though he was 17 at the time of the murders, he was tried as an adult.

Several years later, the post-conviction claims began rolling in.

The United States Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole cases involving a minor were unconstitutional and needed a further judicial review to determine if the sentence was appropriate. But before the sentence had the chance to be altered, District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said that a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel claim that had come to light.

“The case had been affirmed on appeal, but there was an ineffective assistance of counsel claim claiming that his lawyer didn’t do a good enough job with a few different parts of the trial,” said Rubinstein.

Rubinstein said one of Mangum’s original trial lawyers is now a District Court Judge here in Mesa County and would not be able to preside over the case. Other judges in the county have also been recused. Because of that, a visiting judge was necessary.

“So it was assigned to a visiting judge out of Glenwood Springs who reviewed the ineffective assistance of counsel claim and determined that council was ineffective and ordered a new trial,” said Rubinstein. “We appealed that up to the court of appeals, but the court of appeals affirmed that decision, and so now the case has returned back to us to retry him for the murder.”

But Heather Evans does not support the chance for Mangum to have a retrial.

“The jurors still did their job. They convicted him. It’s just a slap in the face to the jurors,” said Evans. “That’s 12 people that spent almost a month having to sit through that, and now we have to do it all again.”

And she says with the fact that he was sentenced to life in prison, the possibility of him getting out isn’t justice for her family.

“He had six years of freedom before he was ever caught,” added Evans. “He’s only been in prison for 20 years. So ten years per death. That’s not okay. That’s not justice. We just want justice. We don’t want to have to worry about this anymore.”

Evans says her brother sought therapy in the past to help him work through everything that was happening. She says the victim’s compensation program that the district attorney’s office offers provided him with $1,200 20 years ago. She says that in the last few years, with new developments with a retrial, it’s reopened old wounds, and the program wasn’t offering help to them anymore.

“The victim’s compensation system needs to be revamped. I mean, victims are victims for life. It’s not just ‘oh you helped me for six months, ‘” said Evans. “If my brother needs help, he needs help. $1,200 is not the cost of counseling for the deaths of two of our family members.”

Dan Rubinstein also said once Mangum has had the chance to enter a plea once again, they will have six months to begin his new trial.

Mangum is expected to be in court on March 21.

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