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Prosecutors to seek death penalty for murder of 11-year-old boy in Scottsdale hotel

This image shows the mug shots of Stephanie Marie Davis and her husband, Thomas James Desharnais.
Stephanie Marie Davis and her husband, Thomas James Desharnais, are facing first-degree murder and child abuse charges in the death of Davis's 11-year-old grandson.(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 2:43 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office says it plans to seek the death penalty for a grandmother and her husband accused of abusing and killing an 11-year-old boy earlier this year at a hotel in Scottsdale. Prosecutors said on Tuesday they want Stephanie Marie Davis and Thomas James Desharnais put to death if they’re convicted of first-degree murder.

On Jan. 30, Davis called 911 saying she found her grandson, Chaskah Davis Smith, unresponsive in a bathtub in their room at the Extended Stay America near Scottsdale and Osborne roads. According to court documents, she was doing CPR when officers arrived, but Chaskah didn’t survive. He was pronounced dead at the hospital less than two hours later.

In the same hotel room was Chaskah’s younger half-brother, who was 9 years old at the time. Officers noticed the boy had an injury to his face and bruising around his eyes. Police later arrested Davis and Desharnais, for murder and other charges, alleging the boys had been abused for quite some time. The couple and two boys had reportedly been living at the Scottsdale hotel for a few years.

According to police, Davis told detectives that Chaskah “had been ‘hurting himself’ all day” and had a history of doing so. She said he hit himself in the head with a wrench and cut his genitals with a knife on the day he died. But her husband told a different story. Desharnais told investigators that the boys were repeatedly abused by their grandmother and that it was getting worse in the months leading up to Chaskah’s death. According to court documents, he said Davis hit Chaskah in the head with a metal ratchet on a few different occasions, including the day before he died. He also says Davis would regularly deny giving Chaskah food and water, sometimes for days. Investigators said Desharnais knew about the ongoing abuse but did nothing to stop it.

In February, Davis and Desharnais were indicted on 11 felony counts, including first-degree murder, child abuse and tampering with evidence. The charges stem from not only the day of Chaskah’s death on Jan. 30, but abuse happening since Aug. 1, 2019. Allegations of possible abuse had been made as far back as 2017 when Chaskah’s school reported an injury. Several reports were made that year, but investigators closed those cases at the time over a lack of evidence. Davis also had a warrant for her arrest going back to 2016 out of Minnesota.

County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said on Tuesday the death penalty is being sought since the allegations are especially heinous. “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 in a statement. “Seeking justice for this young boy whose life was cut short in an especially heinous matter is what prosecutors are called to do.”

Trial dates are pending.