Last week, the Orange/Osceola County Joint Homicide Investigation Team (JHIT) arrested Paul V. Neff in Winter Park for the murder of his roommate Sean Van Davis. The two men lived in the Errol Villas Condominiums when the shooting occurred. It was the latest step in an investigative process that began in early November. The Apopka Voice will tell this tragic, bizarre and violent story in a five part series entitled "The Errol Shooting". The series will explore the roots of the volatile three-year relationship between Neff and Davis... where they met, why they came to Apopka, what led to the shooting, and finally the evidence the JHIT team collected that contradicts Neff’s claim of self-defense and ultimately caused the State Attorney to charge Neff with first degree murder.
Part Two: Neff and Davis meet in Jacksonville in 2013
Attempting to unpack the relationship between Paul Neff and Sean Davis is a lot like trying to describe a room by looking through the keyhole of its door. Some things are clear, others are a bit fuzzy, and other parts of the room are unknown... Some parts of the room are light and visible, other parts of the room are dark and difficult to see.
Ruth Charlene Davis was the light in Davis’ life, but his sister was also well aware of his darkness.
“My mother called Sean her wayward son,” she said. “I took on the burden my mother took on. He was not my son. He was my brother, but I wanted to make sure he was alright.”
She did not know about the relationship between Neff and her brother, but she understood Sean’s personality and his need to be accepted.
“Sean had insecurities. He needed to be needed. He needed to matter.”
According to her, Davis and Neff met in Jacksonville in 2013. Davis provided handyman services for Neff, caddied for him (in golf tournaments) and rented houses and rooms from Neff over the course of the next three years. She is not sure how her brother and Neff became roommates or how the two men ended up in Apopka, or how it ended so tragically.
“Sean talked a lot, but he was not a violent man. He never had a battery or assault charge. He was no angel but he was a good guy. He did not deserve to die like that."
In the course of their relationship, Neff and Davis became close. Davis began to call Neff “my brother”. Neff taught Davis how to play golf. Davis had an immediate love for the game, and Neff became his coach. It was their shared dream that Davis would one-day play on the Senior Tour and win the 2020 US Senior Open.
At some point, their relationship became sexual. Drugs and alcohol also played a prominent role. They rented houses, apartments and hotels all over Florida, Georgia and South Carolina... always for short periods of time. By 2014, police visits and arrests became part of the dynamic.
According to police reports, on December 4, 2014, officers from the Winter Park Police Department responded to a person burning items. Upon arrival, they located an active burning fire in the front yard driveway. Davis was the only person at the residence and refused to cooperate with law enforcement and remained inside of the residence, refusing to come out. The officers made entry to the residence and deployed a taser on Davis. He was arrested and transported to the Orange County Jail.
It was later learned that Davis had destroyed items belonging to Neff, because he suspected Neff and his wife were having an affair. Davis was charged with destruction of evidence.
Despite the suspected affair, destruction of property and arrest, the relationship between Neff and Davis survived. However four months later on April 17, 2015, police responded to a loud argument at their rented house in Thunderbolt, Georgia.
According to police reports, when officers from the Thunderbolt Police Department made contact, Neff answered the door, lit a cigarette and reluctantly stated he and his roommate had been in an argument, and that Davis struck him on the left side of his mouth. According to the officer's observations, there was no bruising, redness, discoloration of any kind, nor any swelling.
Davis said he and Neff had finished grilling steaks, and he got angry over how Neff prepared his plate. Davis said he did not strike him during the argument.
Adding to the dysfunction were periodic trips to Jacksonville for drugs. Because of these visits, Davis’ father Van Davis (who lives in Jacksonville) was familiar with their struggles.
According to police reports, Van Davis confirmed that Davis and Neff would travel to Jacksonville approximately every two weeks to purchase crack cocaine. Van Davis told police his son told him that Neff and he would argue a lot and that Neff drank a lot and owned a firearm. He told his son not to argue with Neff while he was in possession of the firearm. Davis also told his father that Neff pulled a gun out (in an argument) and shook it but never pointed it at Davis.
Tomorrow: Part Three - Their bizarre, violent time in Apopka.