Trial scheduled for man accused of killing, mutilating new BYU-Idaho graduate

Aaron William Davis, seen here, a recent Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate who was killed nearly two years ago. A trial has been scheduled to begin this month for Georgia man who is accused of killing Davis.

Aaron William Davis, seen here, a recent Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate who was killed nearly two years ago. A trial has been scheduled to begin this month for Georgia man who is accused of killing Davis. (Family photo)


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ROME, Ga. — A trial has been scheduled to begin this month for a Georgia man accused of killing a then-recent Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate nearly two years ago.

Brandon Christopher Risner, 23, is charged with felony murder on the accusation that he stabbed and mutilated Aaron William Davis in November 2022. Davis, 21, and Risner attended high school together and were friends. Risner had stayed in the Davis home many times, according to a Deseret News article.

Risner attended BYU-Idaho for a semester in fall 2021. Davis graduated from the university with a degree in political science in July 2022.

Months later, on Nov. 11, 2022, Davis visited Risner in Rome, Georgia, on the way to see his girlfriend in Alabama. The next morning, Rome police discovered Davis' abandoned car in a ditch at a local park and were led to Risner's home on Collingwood Road.

"He (Risner) removed the body of said person (Davis) from one location off Collingwood Road to another off of Tumlin Drive where he buried said person in an unmarked grave," a criminal indictment says. "(Risner) attempted to get rid of the vehicle driven by (Davis), which contained blood, and (tried) to remove blood on the mattress and on the carpet and a rug as well as blood and blood spatter on a ceiling of an upstairs bedroom," according to the indictment.

Investigators found Davis' body under 6 to 12 inches of dirt in a 6- to 8-foot hole left by a large uprooted tree, according to police reports. Risner initially fled but eventually turned himself into authorities.

Court documents show the night before Davis was killed, he went to a bar with Risner and "became inebriated after consuming high BAC content beers the defendant ordered for him." They went back to Risner's house, and Davis went to sleep in the upstairs guest bedroom.

"During the night or early morning hours of the following day, the defendant allegedly used a sharp object to stab Mr. Davis multiple times in the head, chest, torso and extremities, leading to his death," court documents say. "The defendant purportedly placed the deceased body into Mr. Davis' vehicle, drove to another location, and buried Mr. Davis in a shallow unmarked grave."

Risner is also charged with removing body parts from the scenes of the death, including a portion of Davis' small intestines.

A mental evaluation was ordered for Risner in July, and he was found competent for trial in February, according to court records.

Brandon Christopher Risner is accused of killing a recent Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate nearly two years ago.
Brandon Christopher Risner is accused of killing a recent Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate nearly two years ago. (Photo: Floyd County Alabama Jail)

Judge denies witness can testify

In an order issued last week, Floyd County Superior Court Chief Judge John "Jack" Niedrach denied a request from prosecutors to have a pet sitter testify in the trial.

A woman said she was pet-sitting for Risner's parents at the Collingwood Road home 10 days before Davis was killed. Risner unexpectedly arrived home, started drinking alcohol and offered the woman a mixed drink, which she declined.

The pet sitter retired to the guest bedroom and said Risner repeatedly tried to enter the room to initiate sexual activity, according to court records.

"(She) declined his advances and eventually feigned sleep in an effort to avoid him. The defendant supposedly stood in the darkened room and watched her pretend to sleep. The next day, (she) abandoned her pet-sitting obligations because she felt uncomfortable being in the home with the defendant," court documents say.

Niedrach ruled the woman's testimony can not be allowed into court because evidence offered solely for the purpose of showing a defendant's bad character or propensity to commit a crime is not admissible.

"The state does not claim the defendant acted violently toward or attempted to murder Ms. Thomas. Nor does any count of the indictment suggest the defendant attempted sexual contact with Mr. Davis," Niedrach wrote in his ruling.

Court records show multiple other witnesses are expected to be called during the trial, including experts in forensic biology and DNA.

Risner worked as a scare actor at a haunted house in Canton, Georgia, according to his social media pages. Four days ago before his arrest, he posted a video of himself singing and playing the guitar.

In addition to murder, Risner is charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, concealing the death of another, abandonment of a dead body and theft by taking, as well as misdemeanor removal of body parts from the scene of a death, tampering with evidence and obstruction of an officer. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial is scheduled to begin in Floyd County Superior Court in Rome, Georgia, on June 24.

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Nate Eaton

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