After 14 hours of deliberation over three days, a Prince William County jury yesterday convicted Teresa Hattie Dixon, 18, of voluntary manslaughter for her role in the beating death of a 25-year-old mother of two who was killed in June by a group of teenage girls after a traffic altercation.
The verdict indicates that the jury, presented with a first-degree murder charge against Dixon, decided that the teenager meant to kick Natalie Giles Davis during a fight but did not intend to kill her. Testimony during the trial this week revealed that Dixon kicked Davis, of Woodbridge, at least once in the head.
Jurors, who can recommend up to 10 years in prison for the conviction, began considering a sentence yesterday afternoon and are scheduled to reconvene this morning.
Dixon, of the Alexandria section of Fairfax, apologized to the victim's family during the sentencing phase, sobbing on the witness stand as she looked out at a group of Davis's cousins.
"I just want to say that I'm sorry for what happened, and I know how you all feel," Dixon said, wiping her eyes. "I just hope for all your forgiveness, and I apologize."
Davis family members quickly responded: "We forgive you."
On Wednesday, Dixon's mother, Hattie Terrell, approached Davis's mother, Etta Giles, outside the courtroom. The two embraced, shedding tears. Family members said Terrell apologized to Giles.
Defense attorney Mark Yeager said of Dixon: "She was upset about the verdict because in her own mind, she didn't think what she did was criminal."
The victim, Davis, died a few days after suffering brain injuries during a fight with Dixon and a 16-year-old Woodbridge girl, who prosecutors say pursued and attacked Davis after she yelled at a group of teenagers to move a car that was blocking a residential street. Dixon testified on Tuesday that she lightly kicked Davis in the head as retaliation for being hit across the face during the fight, and Dixon transferred much of the blame for Davis's injuries to Kurebia Maria Hampton, who is scheduled to be tried as an adult beginning Nov. 1.
Witnesses who testified Monday and Tuesday implicated Hampton as the primary aggressor in the fight, saying that the 200-pound teenager repeatedly slammed Davis's head into the sidewalk and then stomped on her head. Young relatives of Davis who witnessed the fight said Dixon stepped up and kicked Davis in the head after she was unconscious.
Jurors asked several questions of Circuit Court Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. during their deliberations that may indicate they struggled in deciding whether Dixon was helping Hampton to kill Davis or Dixon was independently retaliating against her. More than one of their questions centered on the issue of actual malice--whether Dixon was acting in the heat of passion or maliciously attacking Davis with an intent to kill.
In the sentencing phase, jurors heard testimony from a case manager for the Fairfax County Community Services Board who said Dixon has been diagnosed as mentally retarded and has an IQ of approximately 70. Such evidence was barred from the trial by Virginia law, which precludes testimony regarding a defendant's mental capacity unless an insanity plea is entered. The jury of 10 women and two men can consider such evidence when recommending a sentence.
Davis's family members said they are pleased that Dixon will have to serve some time in prison while expressing disappointment that she was not convicted of murder. Kevin Giles, one of Davis's cousins, said family members are now refocusing their energy on Hampton's trial.
"This is just the first step," Giles said. "We have to come back, and we will be here until the end. We want everyone who was involved prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But even then, you can't get full satisfaction because we will never see Natalie again, regardless."
Giles also called for punishment for three other teenage girls who were present during the fight, one of whom drove the car that pursued Davis. Witnesses testified this week that Hampton and two of the other teenagers are affiliated with a Prince William street gang, and none of them has been charged with a crime.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney James A. Willett said that the investigation is continuing and that he has not ruled out prosecuting others who were present during the fight. At least one of the girls is listed as a witness for the commonwealth.
The Davis family said this week that the gang, which is called "Five-Five," was responsible for two incidents early Wednesday that family members said probably was meant to intimidate them.
The night after testimony implicated Hampton, one young witness who is Davis's cousin reported that she found a "55" symbol painted on a fence outside her Dumfries home, and a fiance of another of Davis's cousins was assaulted after a group of masked, armed men stormed into his Dale City home and ransacked the house. Prince William County police said a gang emblem was scratched into a television, but they said they have not been able to conclusively link the crimes to the trial.
CAPTION: Teresa Hattie Dixon reacts as the jury's verdict is read in the beating death of Natalie Giles Davis. Defense attorney Mark Yeager is in the foreground.