Michael Davis was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Josie Berrios.

March 27, 2018

Local Man Receives Maximum Sentence of 25 Years for Collegetown Murder

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A previous version of this article indicated that Josie Berrio’s body was discovered near the Breazzano Center. The correct location of Berrio’s body was at the Breazzano Center construction site. 

Michael Davis, a 47-year old Dryden man, received the maximum prison sentence Friday for killing Josie Berrios, a 28-year old Ithaca resident.

Berrios’ body was discovered last June at the Breazzano Center construction site at 209-215 Dryden Avenue in Collegetown and Davis was arrested by the Ithaca Police less than 24 hours after the discovery, The Sun previously reported.

Davis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“That’s what we felt he deserved,” District Attorney Matthew Van Houten told The Sun. “We’re happy with the court’s ruling.”

Berrios was a transgender woman of color and was in a personal relationship with Davis. Although prosecutors did consider charging Davis with a hate crime, there was not sufficient evidence.

“What a hate crime is defined as [is] one victim selected or singled out for gender, orientation, or religion or other protected categories of people,” Van Houten said. “The victim and the defendant were in a domestic relationship. The victim was not singled out because of who she was. It was a crime of domestic violence, not a hate crime.”

Van Houten said that although Davis waived his right to most of his appellate arguments, there is still the possibility of an appeal.

“What I learned throughout the case and especially at sentencing is that Josie Berrios was someone who was very well loved and wanted and respected and courageous within the community,” he said. “I think that’s the thing we should take away from this … is that she was taken away from this community and she was a bright light that shined on the community.”

Berrios, also known as Kimbella Rosé and Kendra Adams, was one of the founding members of The House of Merlot, a drag performance troupe in Ithaca, and was an active member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“A proud trans woman of color, she always tried her best to make new performers feel comfortable in our spaces,” The House of Merlot posted on its Facebook page after her death. “She recognised the realness in all of us without question and made us feel beautiful. She was part of so many families here in Ithaca, that many are feeling stunned and lost following this news. Her presence is still felt, and will never be forgotten.”