The Days After

For the family Joseph Davis Jr. left behind, the events of April 8, 2004, left unimaginable grief and questions that have no answers.

“I just think he lost it,” his father, Joseph Davis Sr., said. “I can’t tell you what he was thinking during that last hour before that all happened. It’s just hard. I do not know.”

Even more than a year later, it’s hard for a father to believe that his son was responsible for killing two people, and then turning the gun on himself.

At the mention of her grandson’s name, tears fill Mable Davis’ eyes and her voice begins to waver.

“It’s just like a dream to me,” she said, talking about the day when Joseph Davis Jr. shot ex-girlfriend Alicia Isaac and her cousin, Ronald Fils.

Now 84 years old, the grandmother said she spent a lifetime helping others raise their children. She works as a “foster grandmother” at Holy Family Headstart Center. Everyone who knows her calls her “Mom.”

She said she helped raise the younger Davis and had an interest in his life. She never thought he’d be capable of killing.

“What went wrong I couldn’t tell you. He was a good child,” she said, crying.

The younger Davis’ aunt, Rose Charles, harbors a combination of anger and frustration toward her nephew, who she said left them to pick up the pieces.

“He wasn’t thinking,” she said firmly. “I guess he got into such a violent rage he just was too mad to really understand what was happening. He failed to realize that we are the ones suffering. It’s over with for him.”

The younger Davis chose to end his life inside East Bayou Baptist Church, a place he knew well and where his father has worked for 20 years.

He practically grew up inside the church, according to the elder Davis, who said he often brought “Junior” to work with him when he was a boy.

The elder Davis met his son there that day and tried to talk him out of killing himself while the police hovered around the scene. His pleas went unheeded.

Davis Sr. said it took a week before he built up the courage to go talk to Alicia’s mother, Betty Ward Isaac. The two were friends before the slayings.

“It wasn’t easy. I didn’t know what she was going to say, how she was going to react,” he said. “She was hurt. I guess looking at me was like looking at my son.”

He said the two have since pulled together for the sake of their grandchild, Kiiurstin, the daughter of Alicia Isaac and Joseph Davis Jr.

“We were both down and out. Both our kids are gone. The bad thing about that is that Junior did it. I feel bad about that. Don’t like that, I don’t like that part at all. But it happened,” he said. “The main thing that was on both our minds is the little girl, to make sure to get the granddaughter straight.”

The two share custody of Kiiurstin, with Betty being the primary caregiver. Davis Sr. said he also shares in expenses.

“Whatever it takes,” he said, although Betty is known for not asking for help. “She don’t like to ask for too much, but if she ever needs something, man, she asks me. It’s all about the child. It’s not about me. It’s not about her. It’s about the child.”

As for overcoming the losses, he said. “It’s a day-by-day thing. You just pick yourself up and go. I ain’t saying it’s going to be easy. It hadn’t been easy for nobody.”

He said everyone has his own way of dealing with tragedy. His has been to focus on the survivors.

“All of us have gotten that much closer since then and I’m not going to let it slip away, never,” he said of his seven surviving children and his family at large. “We made something good come out of a bad thing. That was my main focus. Let’s not let Junior’s death or Alicia or the young man’s (Fils’) death be in vain. Let’s make something good out of this.”