MILWAUKEE — A 20-year-old man was charged with first degree intentional homicide in the death of 19-year-old Leah Davis at 66th and Lisbon on Saturday, one of three killed in one of the most violent weekends in Milwaukee in recent memory.
Keshawn Rowsey is facing 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide - Use of a Dangerous Weapon, Domestic Abuse Assessments. He is in custody and is expected to be in court for the first time on Wednesday.
A criminal complaint states officers were called to an apartment building at 66th and Lisbon, where they found Rowsey, who told them he had called 911. Officers went inside the apartment and found the victim on the ground with gunshot wounds. The medical examiner later concluded she died from eight gunshot wounds and ruled it a homicide.
Domestic violence murders are on the rise in Milwaukee. According to the Milwaukee Police Department, domestic and intimate partner violence homicides have gone up 84.2 percent since 2019.
Over 700 people have been arrested at least twice in the last two years for domestic violence related crimes, showing a pattern of repeat offenders. Rowsey, however, has no other adult domestic violence related offenses. However, as the criminal complaint shows, there were red flags.
A friend of the victim told investigators that she had received a call from the defendant that day, saying the victim's home had been shot up eight times. The friend said the victim and the defendant had broken up three weeks ago and that he had not taken the breakup well. The friend described their relationship as rocky.
That friend told police she would mediate arguments between Davis and Rowsey. She described Rowsey as being possessive and overprotective.
"In a violent relationship, where you're noticing possession, over-jealousy, violence of any sort, and then you separate from the relationship, you can be assured the violence is going to spike," Carmen Pitre, President and CEO of the Sojourner Family Peace Center said.
Pitre pointed out common patterns she has seen from other domestic violence cases in the past which are concerning behaviors. She made the distinction, just because a person is exhibiting these concerning behaviors does not mean they are absolutely capable of causing fatal harm to someone.
"The jealousy, possessiveness, certainly that other people were seeing signs of violence happening, that’s a sign of violence escalating," Pitre said. "The break up is not a lethal factor but is a trigger for escalating violence."
In addition to Davis' friend telling police about the concerning behaviors in the relationship, a neighbor also spoke to police about hearing six to seven arguments over the last few months. All of which could have been warning signs.
"It's not uncommon for people to not know how to intervene," Pitre said. "I put that on us as a society, not on the neighbor or friend. How have we as a community educated people about resources?"
Pitre points out there are eight culturally specific programs in the area to help survivors, including Sojourner. Ultimately, she wants the general public to know what to do to help prevent a situation from turning deadly.
"Schools, churches, businesses, every neighborhood in Milwaukee should have a strategy for dealing with violence in homes," Pitre said. "We should have ambassadors and champions who bring it together so if you're hurt or see someone being hurt, you know exactly what to do and how to help."
Those efforts could help increase positive outcomes. Pitre refers to what the public knows about domestic violence as the tip of the iceberg. She says most domestic violence goes unreported. It's a sentiment echoed by Milwaukee Police Captain Lucretia Turner
"Our domestic violence homicides are a result," Turner said. "And there was no report of domestic violence prior to a homicide."
Turner leads the Department's Sensitive Crimes Division. She says it can be difficult to communicate thoroughly with survivors who don't want to report.
"Having honest conversations with victims so they understand the reality of what their outcome can be," Turner said. "Some victims don't believe it could end in a fatality and it may be very apparent to everyone around watching the situation go on. Sometimes they don't understand the resources available to them and think there is no way out for them or they may be dependent on an abuser for certain things, like finances."
"I don't think people move forward because they live in fear, they're frozen," Pitre said. "It's heartbreaking when you end a relationship and you're being hurt or the person is escalating it. It's confusing to navigate and it's not that person's fault. A safety plan is effective. The best way to get out is individual to yourself. It's your own individual safety plan. That's why a conversation with someone who knows violence and how it can escalate and the safety plannign piece is so critical."
Sojourner offers two contact methods over the phone. The first is a 24/7 hotline to speak to someone at 414-933-2722. If you're in a situation where you can't speak, they have a text line as well, at 414-559-6205.
A neighbor told investigators on the same day she had let the defendant into the apartment building because she knew him as the boyfriend of her neighbor, Leah Davis. The neighbor said she then heard knocking at the victim's apartment and the boyfriend saying she should let him in. The neighbor heard three gunshots, the complaint states. The neighbor later heard a female voice say "she's dead."
Another neighbor told investigators she heard the defendant say "stop playing with me" and then 5-6 gunshots coming from the victim's apartment.
A friend of the defendant told police that they had known each other since third grade. He said on April 23 the defendant had called him and said that the victim had been shot and that he had shot her. Investigators confirmed they had talked over the phone around that time.
Online court records show Rowsey is in custody. He is set to attend his initial appearance in Milwaukee County Court on Wednesday, April 27. If found guilty, he could face a maximum of life in prison.