A Florida man was charged with the shooting death of a Martinez man in the parking lot of his longtime church late Thursday.
Daniel Nelson Robinson, 21, of was captured in Florida several hours after police say he shot William “Bill” Rountree DaVitte, 55, and assaulted his wife in the parking lot of Marvin United Methodist Church.
“We don’t know who he was here visiting, what his business was here,” Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said.
DaVitte and his wife, Jennifer “Jenny,” Wright DaVitte, 64, both of Cutter Mill Road, were at the church on Wheeler Road at Belair Road at about 10:30 p.m. to turn on the sprinkler system. Church pastor the Rev. Elizabeth Ackerman said DaVitte, a longtime member of the church, often volunteered with the grounds maintenance.
“It’s just hard when you have someone so many people in their church have known and someone who is kind and humble and soft-spoken,” Ackerman said. “He was serving. He was doing good. It’s just hard.
Ackerman said DaVitte, an avid golfer, always participated in the church’s annual golf tournament and he was a “humble servant,” a dedicated to helping the church however he could.
“He was just supportive of whatever we were doing,” Ackerman said. “He was an inspiration while he was here. He will be truly missed.
“Our prayers are just with his family. We just feel for them.”
Michael Hattaway, who worked with DaVitte for 30 years at Augusta Newsprint, said his friend was outgoing and was always busy with family, friends and church activities.
“He and Jenny are the most active couple I’ve evr known,” Hattaway said. “They never let the grass grow under their feet.”
Hattaway was sure that DaVitte was doing “what any man with a backbone” would have done when he came to his wife’s rescue that night, but he wants his friend to be remembered for something else besides bravery.
“Bill always tried to find the good in any person or any situation, no matter what,” he said.
DaVitte’s funeral was held Tuesday. He is survived by his wife; two children, Tyler DaVitte and Allyson Madden; three sisters; three brothers; and three grandchildren.
DaVitte was employed as an operator at Resolute Forest Industries (Augusta Newsprint) for 31 years.
DaVitte’s wife was sitting in the passenger seat of their 2010 gold Nissan Murano in the parking lot when police say Robinson approached her.
“He tapped on the window and demanded she open the door,” Morris said. “And he started beating her with the handgun.”
DaVitte came running when he heard his wife scream and honk the horn. As he approached, police say Robinson shot him three times. Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said he pronounced DaVitte dead at the scene. His wife was taken to the Georgia Regents Medical Center to be treated for injuries that did not appear life-threatening, Morris said.
Collins said an autopsy was performed Friday morning at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta, which confirmed DaVitte died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Morris said Robinson fled in the couple’s vehicle.
“One witness was nearby heard the screams and heard the shots and saw the vehicle drive away, but did not see any additional vehicle,” Morris said, adding officials believe Robinson was in the are on foot.
Morris said they believed Robinson was headed toward Florida and notified Florida authorities about the incident. They spotted the vehicle just before 5 a.m. near Jacksonville and a pursuit ensued, Morris said. Robinson abandoned the vehicle and ran. Authorities set up a perimeter and he was quickly captured.
Robinson, who is being held in the Jacksonville area, will be extradited to Columbia County, but Morris said no firm plans have be set as to when that extradition would occur.
Robinson was charged with motor vehicle theft, resisting arrest, fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, reckless driving, trespassing and driving without a license, according to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office records.
Since 2011, Robinson has been arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at least seven times.
Records indicate Robinson got out of jail in February.