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Memorial service planned for BYU-Idaho grad as medical examiner releases cause of death

National

CUMMING, Georgia — Loved ones will gather this weekend to remember a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate who was allegedly killed by his friend.

A memorial service is planned for 21-year-old Aaron William Davis at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building in Cumming, Georgia, at 5 p.m. Sunday. An online fundraiser was set up earlier this week to help Davis’ family cover expenses so he can be buried in a family cemetery plot in Massachusetts.

A medical examiner determined on Wednesday that Davis’ death was a homicide due to injuries that occurred through being stabbed by another person, Floyd County Deputy Coroner Chris Giles tells EastIdahoNews.com.

Brandon Christopher Risner, the man accused of killing Davis, remains in the Floyd County Georgia Jail. The 21-year-old was arrested Saturday on charges of murder, felony obstruction of law enforcement officers, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another.

RISNER BRANDON CHRISTOPHER 2211005430
Brandon Christopher Risner | Rome Police Department

Davis and Risner were friends and knew each other for years, according to family members. Davis graduated from BYU-Idaho in July with a degree in political science, a university spokesman said. Risner also attended the university for one semester in the fall of 2021.

The investigation into Davis’ death began Saturday when police in Rome, Georgia, discovered an abandoned vehicle in a ditch at a park. Rome is around 70 miles northwest of Atlanta, near the Georgia/Alabama state line.

Aaron Davis graduation
Aaron Davis graduated from BYU-Idaho in July. | Courtesy photo

Randy Davis, Davis’ father, told the Deseret News that Aaron planned to stay with Risner on Thursday night before driving to his girlfriend’s in Alabama on Friday. His girlfriend tried to call Davis on Friday, but his phone was off.

Randy Davis said Risner then texted the girlfriend to say Davis’ phone was dead and Davis would stay with him on Friday before driving to see her Saturday.

With no communication and the discovery of Davis’ vehicle, police began searching for him.

“Signs of foul play were discovered at a location Mr. Davis was last known to have been,” a Rome Police Department news release says.

Investigators were led to a wooded area off Tumlin Drive, about three miles from the park where Davis’s vehicle was found.

Rome GA Heritage Park
This map shows where police discovered Davis’s body and car. | EastIdahoNews.com image

“We discovered Mr. Davis’s body under a tree that had been uprooted. He had been put in the 6-to-8-foot hole and covered with about a foot of dirt,” Giles says. Authorities identified him by his BYU-Idaho ID card.

Giles says Davis was stabbed 20 times and had been dead 18 to 20 hours before being found.

Police tried to interview Risner, but “he ran from officers … and disobeyed all commands to stop,” according to an arrest warrant. He eventually turned himself in and was booked into jail without bond.

It’s unclear what led up to the stabbing, but the arrest warrant states Risner and Davis were involved in an argument “which caused the death of the victim” before Risner “removed the body from the location to another in an attempt to hide the crime.”

“We’re heartbroken, and we feel betrayed because it’s a friend who’s been accused,” Randy Davis told the Deseret News. “(Risner) was like our son as well. We don’t understand what happened.”

Davis was the “glue in our family dynamic with special ties to each of his siblings and parents,” his father wrote on the online fundraiser. His son had aced an entrance exam for his master’s program the last day his family heard from him.

“We will miss him forever. We trust through the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ that we will see him again and he will always be part of our eternal family,” Randy Davis said.

Our attorneys tell us we need to put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: EastIdahoNews.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries.

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