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Man guilty of killing St. Petersburg chef in hit and run sentenced to 30 years in prison

LARGO — One of the first words Aaron Davis' 2-year-old daughter, Audrey, learned to say was "dada." Now, she wonders why he isn't home.

A few days ago, she asked her mom, Ana Davis: "Are you on the phone with daddy?"

On Monday, Ana stared across a courtroom at Jason Lanard Mitchell, the man who struck and killed her husband, a popular chef, last April as Mitchell sped while drunk across downtown St. Petersburg. Three days after the crash, Ana gave birth to the couple's second child.

"Jason, after you hit a human, you had no remorse," she said. "Someone was going to die that night and unfortunately it had to be my best friend and my husband and the father of my daughter and son."

On Monday, Pinellas Circuit Judge Michael Andrews sentenced Mitchell to 30 years in prison, followed by 15 years of probation.

As Davis' loved ones took the stand to describe how their lives have been altered in the past year, Mitchell, 26, burst into sobs, screaming "I'm sorry" as his defense attorney wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

But Andrews wasn't swayed, concluding that Mitchell had not shown enough remorse.

"You refuse to admit that you knew you hit the victim," the judge said. "In reality, you have not taken any responsibility for what has happened."

On April 11 last year, Mitchell was speeding about 2 a.m. in downtown St. Petersburg on his way to a club, when police officers on the DUI squad saw his Dodge Charger rental and tried to stop him.

Instead, Mitchell continued driving, running red lights. Davis, 31, and his co-worker, Brian Lee LaFrance, were walking across Second Street in the north crosswalk of Central Avenue when Mitchell ran another red light and struck them.

Seconds before the collision, the Dodge was traveling at 88 mph, a St. Petersburg police officer testified Monday. Mitchell braked right before he struck Davis and LaFrance, still at a speed of up to 64 mph, flinging Davis 138 feet away from the crash.

Mitchell didn't stop, crashing into concrete pillars and the curb with such force that the car's right front wheel was ripped off.

Davis died at the scene. LaFrance was hospitalized, but survived the wreck.

On Monday, LaFrance recalled his fleeting memories of the moments after the wreck. He remembers seeing the crosswalk and then waking up on the pavement as paramedics treated him.

He asked if Davis was alive.

"I wasn't even thinking about myself, and I just knew that he had a family that was just getting bigger," he said. "I just wanted to make sure he was going to be there for them."

Mitchell and his passenger, Rayvorris Altuan Oliver, ran off but were eventually caught. Mitchell's blood-alcohol level measured more than 0.09 percent, higher than the 0.08 level at which Florida law presumes impairment. While at police headquarters, he tried to escape from the building but was stopped by officers, police said.

Oliver did not face any charges related to the crash. Mitchell pleaded guilty Friday to charges of escape, vehicular homicide, DUI, fleeing and eluding law enforcement, and providing a false name to police.

Three days after her husband's death, Ana, who is also a chef, gave birth to the couple's son, Andrew Davis, who turned 1 this month.

Ana's mother, Cathy Lee Granucci, remembers the phone call that stirred her awake in the early hours of April 11. She thought her daughter was calling to say she had gone into labor.

Instead, Davis was screaming and crying that Aaron had died.

"I forgive you, Jason Mitchell," Granucci said through tears. "I forgive you still and all this is tremendous loss imposed on our family. … My daughter was with child and there was a baby to be born. … Aaron was so excited about having a son, a son that will never get to feel and touch the comfort of his daddy."

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Davis moved to St. Petersburg in 2008 and worked at several restaurants through the years, including Cafe Ponte in Largo, 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House and the Kitchen in St. Petersburg.

His loved ones said Monday that Davis was a loving husband and father with a vibrant personality, loud voice and crushing hugs. They displayed photos of Davis kissing Audrey on the cheek, Davis smiling next to his daughter and Ana, just three days before his death.

Mitchell's family spoke, too, telling the judge that he was a father of a 5-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

On the stand, Mitchell read a letter to Davis' family.

"I have made the decision that changed many lives forever," he said. "I made a choice to drink and drive, and because of that, Aaron Davis lost his life."

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com. Follow @lauracmorel.

Man guilty of killing St. Petersburg chef in hit and run sentenced to 30 years in prison 04/25/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 7:09am]
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