Education

Charlotte teacher mentored suspect in his slaying

A young man who was taken in "like family" by a popular Randolph IB Middle School teacher six years ago has been charged with the teacher's murder, police and family members said Wednesday.

Ashanti Bess, 22, was in Mecklenburg jail Wednesday night with no bond, a day after the body of 38-year-old Anthony Davis was found at his southwest Charlotte home, his gray Ford Edge SUV missing.

Family and friends said Davis was a giver, who mentored young people - including Bess - and had helped raise his three younger brothers after their mother was murdered in Rock Hill in the early 1980s. Bess stayed at Davis' home at times, a friend said, and he listed Davis' address as his own from 2005 to 2009, public records show.

"(Bess) was one of the people (Davis) took in to help out and really just showed him some love...," said Lorenzo Peterson, who went to Johnson C. Smith University with Davis. "(Davis) took him in almost like family."

On Wednesday morning, someone told police they spotted Davis' SUV at the Brookshire Townhomes, where Bess' mother lives, in northeast Charlotte. Bess had been driving the SUV for days, neighbors told Observer news partner NewsChannel 36.

Bess, who has no prior criminal record in North Carolina, voluntarily went to police headquarters about 11 a.m. Wednesday, and was questioned by officers and later charged.

Investigators haven't said when Davis was killed but say robbery was the motive. Bess has also been charged with robbery and larceny of a vehicle.

Davis' relatives said they were puzzled because his TV and other electronics had been stolen, but there was no sign of a break-in or struggle. The security system hadn't been tripped, they said.

Davis, an 11-year veteran of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools who taught business education, was found shot to death in his bed.

His younger brother, Dwight Davis, said he began to worry when Davis didn't return calls and e-mails over the weekend. He called police when he learned Davis hadn't been at work in two days.

It's unclear if Davis ever taught Bess in school. CMS spokespeople could not be reached Wednesday evening.

Early Wednesday, counselors visited grieving students at Randolph Middle.

School staffers put up large sheets of white paper in hallways and let students write their thoughts and memories of Davis. Many of the children wrote about what Davis had done for them and how much they'll miss him. By afternoon, the papers were filled.

A Facebook page started in memory of Davis had nearly 150 fans Wednesday night.

In a letter to the Observer, eighth-grader Chloe Smithson wrote: "Mr. Davis was always standing at the bus lot in the mornings; saying hello to every student. He would roam the hallways, cracking jokes, and helping students...Everyone loved the kind and dedicated Anthony Davis. May he rest in peace."

Davis' death was another sad chapter for his family.

Relatives said Davis' mother was killed when he was about 12 and the family was living in Rock Hill. A 1984 front-page story from the Rock Hill Evening Herald detailed the horrific murder of Vivian Davis, who was shot on her front porch in front of her children. The father of two of the children was charged with killing her and also injuring Vivian Davis' mother.

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