Bobby Cutts Jr.

CANTON, Ohio — Patty Porter did not want the death penalty for the man who murdered her pregnant daughter. One reason: the 3-year-old boy he and her daughter had together.

"I would have never been able to raise Blake and hate you," Porter told Bobby Cutts Jr. on Wednesday as his family quietly cried. Court deputies passed tissue boxes to the families of both the killer and his victim, Jessie Davis.

Porter offered Cutts her forgiveness, something she said she could do only with God's help. She wept as she told the judge she was risking her family's disapproval.

"Your honor, I may not have a family to go home to after this, but I pray that you make a way for this man to someday be able to get out of there and begin a new life, and to hold his son, maybe as a man," she said.

The jury decided to spare Cutts from execution, and the judge's life sentence opened up a dim, distant possibility of the reunion Porter prayed for. Cutts, a 30-year-old former police officer, will be eligible for parole after 57 years.

Blake Davis, then 2 1/2, was found home alone when his mother disappeared in June. He gave investigators their first clues when he said, "Mommy's crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in the rug," and later, "Daddy's mad."

"I hope and pray I'm able to raise him to forgive you," Porter told Cutts. He knows what you did. You would not believe the stories he's told us."

Prosecutors said Cutts killed Davis, 26, and the nearly full-term fetus at her home in northeast Ohio to avoid making child support payments. He had faced the death penalty for only the fetus' death.

For more than a week, Cutts denied knowledge of her whereabouts as thousands searched in the area amid blanket national cable TV coverage. He finally led authorities to the body, wrapped in a comforter.

Cutts had sobbed on the witness stand when he claimed he accidentally killed Davis with an elbow to the throat during an argument. He said he dumped her body in a park in a panic. He returned to the stand after his conviction to ask jurors to spare his life.

The jury quickly decided against a death sentence because Bobby Cutts Jr. had no history of violence, said foreman Charles Gillespie. They didn't buy the prosecution's argument that Cutts went to Davis' house on a summer morning planning to kill her over mounting child support.

"The jury believed it could have been accidental, it could have been on purpose, but he didn't go there with the intent to do that," Gillespie said.

Cutts' attorney Fernando Mack said the defense had achieved a goal of sparing the defendant's life.

"Clearly, that was the objective here," he said.

Assistant Prosecutor Dennis Barr said he was satisfied that the judge ordered the sentences served back to back, giving Cutts the maximum time behind bars. And although the prosecution never established the cause of death, Barr said he doesn't believe Davis died from an elbow to the throat.

"There is no way, shape or form this was an accidental death," he said.

Outside the courthouse, Jessie Davis' father, Ned Davis, said that unlike his ex-wife, he hadn't forgiven Cutts.

"He violently murdered my daughter and granddaughter. What would you do?" Davis said. "Mr. and Mrs. Cutts did not raise him to do this, of that I'm sure. Everybody lost today."

For the aggravated murder charge in the death of the unborn baby, the judge accepted the jury's recommendation of life in prison with parole eligibility after 30 years.

The additional years without parole that were tacked on to Cutts' sentence were for charges of murder in Davis' death, abuse of a corpse, burglary and child endangering for leaving Blake Davis alone.

Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles Brown Jr. rejected a defense request to merge the sentences against Cutts, 30, but he could have allowed parole eligibility earlier.

Cutts, who resigned from the Canton Police Department, was acquitted of a more serious aggravated murder charge in Davis' death.

Cutts will appeal his conviction, Mack said. One issue is the inconsistency of Cutts being convicted of aggravated murder in the fetus' death and guilty of the lesser crime of murder in Davis' death.

Barr said he was confident the conviction would withstand any appeal.

Gillespie, the jury foreman, said the fact that Cutts did nothing to try to save the fetus after Davis died weighed heavy in the jury's verdict of aggravated murder in the baby's death.

"We all felt that at that point she might have been dead, but there was a chance the baby could live and he didn't do anything to stop it," Gillespie said. "He went ahead with the cover up."