Killer of Clallam County sheriff’s deputy in 2000 dies in prison

By Paul Gottlieb and Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

Thomas Martin Roberts, who was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of Clallam County Sheriff’s Deputy Wally Davis in 2000, has died of apparent natural causes in the Monroe Correctional Complex.

Roberts, 66, died at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Norah West said Thursday.

West could not comment on the circumstances of the death, deferring questions on the specific cause to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“It appears to be natural causes, and it was not an unexpected death,” West said, adding Thomas was in an infirmary at the correctional center when he died.

The Sohomish County medical examiner could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Davis, 48, was survived by his wife, Lisa, who was pregnant and who is now living in Republic; two adult sons, Jeff and Joshua; and a daughter, Jessie, then 15.

Now Jessie Spicher, Davis’ daughter and her husband, Dan, of Port Angeles, are expecting a child in July.

They were walking into a doctor’s office for her first ultrasound when a reporter told her in a telephone interview that her father’s killer was dead.

“I’m actually a Christian,” Jessie said. “I forgave him a long time ago.

“I guess there’s a little closure, but it’s OK, it is, and I’m really sorry to his family.”

Davis’ son, Jacob Wallace Dalton, now 11, was born seven months after Davis was gunned down.

Shortly after noon on Aug. 5, 2000, Davis was ambushed and shot point-blank by Roberts on the porch of Roberts’ green 2009 E. Ennis Creek Road home in Gales Addition east of Port Angeles.

Davis knew Roberts.

The deputy sheriff had been called there to answer a disturbance report, just as he had been in the past.

After killing Davis, Roberts barricaded himself in his house.

He held off authorities, including a SWAT team, for 25 hours before he was arrested.

The Clallam County Courthouse clock was frozen for a week at 1:36 for the Saturday afternoon minute that Davis was pronounced dead at Olympic Medical Center.

Roberts wrote and sent a rambling fax to Peninsula Daily News’ Sequim office three days before shooting Roberts.

In it, Roberts identified himself as “the Pharaoh Thomas,” a term he used about himself in court after the shooting.

He was known by neighbors as “the neighborhood psycho” who told children he was God.

Roberts, charged with aggravated first-degree murder, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

A jury of Island County residents, brought to Port Angeles for Roberts’ trial, evaluated testimony for just three hours before finding Roberts guilty Nov. 7, 2002.

The panel rejected his lawyers’ arguments that he was schizophrenic and had been mentally ill for years.

More than 3,000 mourners attended Davis’ memorial ceremony at Civic Field in Port Angeles, including then-Gov. Gary Locke and 1,200 uniformed law enforcement officers.

The service began as a pipe band played and a riderless horse led a hearse onto the field.

“The citizens of Clallam County and the state of Washington owe Wally Davis and his family a debt we can never repay,” Locke told the crowd during the two-hour service.

Then-Sheriff Joe Hawe could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In an unusual display of emotion, his eyes welled up with tears during a news conference a day after Davis’ death.

In May 2001, Hawe escorted Davis’ widow to Washington, D.C., to place a carnation on a memorial wreath on the western front of the U.S. Capitol in Davis’ honor.

Davis, who moved to Clallam County from Southern California, had been with the agency for five years and had been in law enforcement for 25 years, according to the law enforcement website, www.officer.com.

Then-Undersheriff Dan Engelbertson, who had performed a background check on Davis before hiring him, was in charge of staying with the family during the memorial service and arranging the funeral, he said Thursday.

He recalled the day Davis was shot.

“The thing I remember most about that day is the family, his wife and his girl, and just informing them, and that’s a tough thing to do,” said Engelbertson, who after retiring from the Sheriff’s Office was Clallam County administrator.

Davis was part of the Sheriff’s Office family, too, Engelbertson said .

“You don’t often lose one of your own that you depend on for your life,” he said.

“You are one family when you are in law enforcement.

“You have to be.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.



Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 24. 2013 7:02PM
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