Zachary Davis, also known as the “Sledgehammer Killer,” is behind bars for murdering his mother, Melanie Davis, when he was 15 years old while she was asleep in their home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
In the early hours of Aug. 11, 2012, firefighters were dispatched to Gannett Drive after receiving a call about a house fire with a person still inside.
When the firefighters arrived, they entered the home and found Melanie, 48, lying on her bed with her head bloodied and her face disfigured.
After the fire was extinguished, Melanie’s body was removed from the home. It was handed over to the coroner’s office for an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.
When it was completed, the forensic pathologist ruled Melanie’s death a homicide, as she had suffered blunt force trauma to the head.
Melanie had been struck with an object at least eight times. And it was later ascertained during an interrogation that it was her teenage son who killed her.
At around 2 a.m. that same day, Sumner County Deputy Chris Burgett spotted Zachary walking alone on Nichols Lane.
He was carrying a backpack and a satchel. And inside his pockets were a pocket knife, an X-Acto knife, ear plugs, a cigarette lighter, tissues, and a set of keys.
Zachary also had his school ID card. He was a sophomore at Station Camp High School, where Burgett also worked as a resource officer, but he said he vaguely remembered the teen from school.
Burgett took Zachary to the police station without incident, and it was there that they interrogated him for over an hour about the events that led up to the murder and fire.
Zachary told them that shortly after 9 p.m. on Aug. 10, 2012, he returned to his home with his mother and brother, Josh, after they went to the movie theater, where they watched The Campaign.
Melanie, a paralegal, said she was going to bed. That’s when Zachary said he went to his bedroom and started packing his belongings.
Then, for several hours, he contemplated his mother’s murder before he went to the garage and retrieved a sledgehammer.
Zachary went to his mother’s room, where she was fast asleep, and hovered over her for a few moments before striking her on the head multiple times, crushing her skull.
As he was hitting her, Zachary said on Dr. Phil’s show that he laughed because he thought she deserved what he was doing to her.
According to a journal entry on Aug. 10, 2012, Zachary wrote that after moving into their new house, his brother began raping him, and apparently, she didn’t do anything about it.
His brother denied the allegation during the trial and called it “ridiculous.”
In another journal entry dated Aug. 10, 2012, he wrote: “I killed Melanie and left Josh alone to suffer… I didn’t feel anything… I didn’t feel remorse.”
“My only true regret was that I didn’t give her a faster death. I didn’t want her to suffer.”
Zachary later changed his story. He said he killed his mother because she wasn’t taking care of the family, and he said he “had enough.”
Law enforcement officers debunked his claims. They said Melanie took good care of her children after Zachary’s father died in 2007 from ALS, also called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s illness.
After Zachary killed his mother, he said he went to the bonus room and set it on fire using gasoline and whiskey. His plan was to burn his brother alive while he was sleeping in his bedroom.
His plan fell through when the alarm went off and woke up Josh, who went to Melanie’s bedroom, where he found her dead.
Josh then ran to a neighbor’s house for help.
Meanwhile, Zachary discarded the murder weapon, along with a butcher knife, behind the house. He also hid the black t-shirt he was wearing behind the Cambridge Market on Long Hollow Pike.
Zachary was arrested. He was charged with first-degree murder, including a criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder, and aggravated arson.
He was transported to a juvenile facility, where he awaited trial.
Randy Lucas, Zachary’s attorney at the time, said in a statement: “Anyone who encountered Zack—teachers, neighbors, immediate family members—knew’something’ was deeply wrong.”
“His school knew. His mother knew. But nothing was done.”
In September 2012, a judge decided that Zachary would be tried as an adult because he said there was nothing the juvenile system could do to help him, CBS News reported.
County District Attorney Ray Whitley said, “It was a horrific murder, and the judge made the observation that it was a savage murder and that Zachary Davis could not be handled in the juvenile court.”
Following a four-day trial in April 2015, a jury of seven men and five women deliberated for three hours before finding Zachary guilty of murdering his mother and attempting to kill his brother.