The youngest of four Palestine residents convicted of murdering 84-year-old retired school teacher Geraldine Davidson in January 2000 will be released on parole this summer following a hearing Tuesday at the Anderson County Courthouse.

Edward “Pete” McCoy, who was 13 at the time of Davidson’s murder, will be released from the Texas Youth Commission upon reaching his 21st birthday in July and placed on adult parole for the remainder of his 13-year sentence, according to Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe.

The body of Davidson, a former Palestine school teacher and organist at Grace United Methodist Church, was found floating face down in the Neches River on U.S. 79 by a passing motorist on Jan. 27, 2000.

Davidson had been tossed into the chilly river with her hands tied behind her back and a cinder block tied to her ankles, according to authorities.

McCoy was sentenced to 13 years as a part of a plea agreement with the state in exchange for his testimony against the other three defendants. He has spent almost six years in the Texas Youth Commission.

Anderson County Court-at-Law Judge Jeff Doran could have ruled that McCoy spend the final seven years of his sentence incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

No testimony in any of the three trials portrayed McCoy as helping throw Davidson into the river, although he was present at the time of her murder, according to his own testimony.

Clyde and Paul Davidson, sons of the deceased woman, both testified Tuesday that they believed McCoy should be released and placed on adult parole at age 21, according to Lowe. Their testimony was “based on the progress he’s (McCoy) made at TYC,” the district attorney added.

“In my opinion, it was the victims who made this possible today,” Lowe said.

If the Davidsons’ desire had been for McCoy to go from TYC to the TDCJ – one of the court’s most viable options – Lowe said he would have argued for such a decision.

“I did see today...that rehabilitation is possible,” Lowe, however, noted.

Leonard Cucolo, a representative of the Texas Youth Commission, testified that McCoy has been a model citizen at that facility, earning a high school diploma and a welding certification.

Cucolo further testified that McCoy had participated in the TYC’s Capital Offender Program, the agency’s most intensive treatment program, and actually mentored other co-participants.

As a result of Tuesday’s decision, McCoy will return to the Giddings State School and be released on adult parole on July 31, 2007.

One of the special conditions on McCoy’s parole is he will not be allowed to return to Anderson County, according to Lowe.

Also, McCoy will be forced to wear a “GPS tracking device” to allow for monitoring of his whereabouts.

The three other defendants convicted of Davidson’s murder all received prison sentences, including Danielle Simpson, now 27, who remains on Death Row after being sentenced to die by lethal injection at the conclusion of his December 2000 trial in Henderson County.

Lionel Simpson, the younger brother of Danielle Simpson, was 15 at the time of Davidson’s murder and received a “capital life” sentence following his 2003 trial in Cherokee County. Under terms of his sentence, Lionel Simpson will not be eligible for parole until serving 40 years in prison.

Jennifer Simpson, the wife of Danielle Simpson, pled guilty to murder during her Cherokee County trial and accepted a 40-year prison sentence.

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Paul Stone may be contacted via e-mail at pstone@palestineherald.com

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