Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell directed prosecutors Tuesday to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against two Scottsdale-area adults who allegedly murdered an 11-year-old boy.
The adults are Stephanie Davis and Thomas Desharnais, who were indicted in February on 11 felony charges including first-degree murder, child abuse, and tampering with evidence. The charges stem from events the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office dates back to 2019 when Davis and Desharnais allegedly inflicted bodily harm to a minor under their care.
“As a community, it is our responsibility to protect and care for the most vulnerable in society, and this includes children. The protection of children has always been a top priority for me. This child’s suffering and death must be addressed and those responsible held accountable,” Mitchell said. “Seeking justice for this young boy whose life was cut short in an especially heinous matter is what prosecutors are called to do.”
According to a fatality report from the Arizona Department of Child Safety (ADCS), the victim is 11-year-old Chaskah Davis Smith.
“On January 30, 2022, the Department of Child Safety received a report regarding 11-year-old Chaskah Davis Smith, who had been transported to the hospital and pronounced deceased. Upon examination, there were multiple non-accidental injuries found. The child’s maternal grandmother, Stephanie Davis, and her husband, Thomas Desharnais, were both arrested for one count of first-degree murder and one count of child abuse,” according to the report.
The ADCS report mentions three separate reports of physical abuse committed against Smith only months apart in 2017, with Davis, Desharnais, and a third unknown adult committing the abuse. However, the allegations were unsubstantiated, and all three cases were closed.
The department also mentions Smith had a sibling who was taken into custody and placed in foster care. The investigation was a joint effort between the ADCS and the Scottsdale Police Department.
AZ Family reported on the event when it first occurred. Davis reportedly told police that Smith had a history of self-harm and “has been ‘hurting himself’ all day.” She claimed he hit himself in the head with a wrench and then proceeded to go into the bathroom and cut his genitals with a paring knife. Davis said she took the wrench and knife for cleaning, but neither parent gave the boy medical attention. The boy later asked to take a bath, which Davis prepared for him. Smith was allegedly left in the bathroom for 15 minutes before Davis found him lying on his side in the tub, and she began performing CPR before police arrived.
AZ Family’s report also contains Desharnais’ testimony to investigators. He admitted that Davis abused Smith and his sibling both physically and verbally. Desharnais told detectives he should have stepped in but did not.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Stephanie Davis and Thomas Desharnais” by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.