WATERTOWN — The widow of a state trooper shot to death while responding to a domestic incident has filed a wrongful-death suit against the man convicted of committing the murder.
Suzanne E. Davis, as administrator of the estate of Joel R. Davis, filed state Supreme Court action Wednesday against Justin D. Walters, who is serving a life prison sentence without possibility of parole at Elmira Correctional Facility after being found guilty at Jefferson County Court trial of two counts of first-degree murder and 50 additional counts.
Walters was found guilty March 20 of killing Trooper Davis and Walters’s wife, Nicole V., on July 9, 2017, at the Walters’s residence on County Route 46 in the town of Theresa. A third person, Rebecca Finkle, was shot in the back while hiding in a shed on the couple’s property and has recovered.
According to trial testimony, Trooper Davis was responding to a domestic incident at the Walters’ residence with a report of shots having been fired. Ms. Finkle testified that she was hiding with two children in a shed on the Walters’ property when Walters came to the shed door and ordered her out of the shed. He told Ms. Finkle that his wife was “fine,” even though Ms. Finkle could see that Mrs. Walters had been shot in the face and was lifeless. Walters ordered her to “bring Nicole” to the backyard, thinking it would be best to put her inside a nearby Jeep, so she started to drag her friend’s lifeless body, Ms. Finkle said.
She testified that she then heard additional gunshots. A neighbor, Craig Sherman, told jurors that he called 911 after hearing shots and saw an officer, later identified as Trooper Davis, arrive and “fall down.” Other troopers who arrived at the scene shortly after testified that they immediately knew that Trooper Davis had been killed.
At trial, Walters’s defense attorney, Edward F. Narrow, conceded that Walters committed the shootings, but argued that a mental defect or mental disease prompted his actions, making him not legally liable for the crimes. Walters, a former Fort Drum soldier, served two deployments in Afghanistan and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Narrow contended.
Among the claims made in Mrs. Davis’s lawsuit are that Walters failed to seek appropriate treatment for any mental health or substance abuse issues, failed to properly take medications or undergo treatment for maintenance of his mental health or any alcohol-related issues and failed to obtain treatment and follow medical recommendations for mental health or substance abuse issues.
The suit does not specify an amount sought in damages. Trooper Davis’s estate is represented in the action by Albany attorney Alex C. Dell.