Friends: Dead man found in burned house was 'honest, hardworking'

La-Ross Cortez Davis left work Sunday at 11:25 p.m.

By sunrise Monday, he was dead. Firefighters summoned to his Eaton Street home to extinguish a small blaze found Davis’ body, partially burned with a gunshot wound, in a bedroom. The fire was deemed an arson, according to the Fire Department.

Authorities did not release many details about the killing of Davis, 35, but his death surprised his neighbors, co-workers and family members who painted the lifelong Baton Rouge resident as a hard-working, honest man.

Firefighters arrived at Davis’ home about 6:15 a.m. and found smoke coming from the house, which featured white siding and a small front porch.

Smoke was everywhere, but there wasn’t much fire, Mark Miles, a Fire Department spokesman, said.

The house in the 2600 block of Eaton Street had heavy smoke damage. Some of the inside walls were visibly charred. Some furniture, too, appeared burned.

After the flames were extinguished, firefighters searching the home found Davis inside a front bedroom, Miles said.

He suffered a single gunshot wound to the head and also some burns in the fire, Cpl. Don Coppola Jr., a police spokesman, said. Davis’ death is being investigated as a homicide.

Police did not release any other details about the killing, saying the circumstances surrounding Davis’ death remained unclear.

Not long after Davis’ body was found, the Fire Department was called to investigate a vehicle fire on Linden Street, which is a few blocks north of Eaton Street. There, they found a 2000 GMC Jimmy burning underneath a carport, Miles said.

Miles and Coppola declined to comment on whether the vehicle fire was related to Davis’ death. But Davis’ neighbors and family said the truck belonged to Davis.

A woman who is a neighbor described the Eaton Street neighborhood as a quiet area inhabited mostly by older homeowners. That peacefulness was interrupted early Monday morning by the swarm of police cars, fire trucks and a few barking dogs.

Before they arrived, another neighbor, Clara Myles, said she heard what sounded like a car door slamming shut.

“When they told me it was a gunshot, I said, ‘Oh, that’s what it was,’ ” Myles said.

She said she occasionally spoke with Davis, but she didn’t know him personally.

“I was just shocked,” Myles said.

Those who knew Davis were in disbelief in the wake of his death.

“I really don’t know who would want to hurt him,” Davis’ mother, Ethel Davis Leagard, said. “It’s a shock to everybody.”

She described her son as a social man who grew up in the Capital City and attended Istrouma High School until 12th grade. Since then, he’s worked a number of jobs, including stints at the St. James Place Retirement Community and a B-Quik convenience store.

“He was just hard-working,” Myles said.

Most recently, he worked at the Valero service station at the corner of Plank Road and Evangeline Street called Dave Brothers. Jitendra Dave, the owner of the store known locally as “Mr. Dave,” said Davis clocked out of work Sunday night as usual.

“He was a hard worker — very honest guy,” Dave said, adding that Davis will be missed. Problems never cropped up between the employee and store customers, Dave said.

“Everybody loved Davis,” said an employee there who identified herself only by her nickname, “Queen.”

Davis’ great-aunt, Vivian Washington, said her great-nephew loved taking pictures. He also loved red beans and rice and Little Debbie cakes.

“He was just a fun person,” Washington said.

Davis’ death marked the fifth fatal shooting in Baton Rouge in six days. Police asked anyone with information about this incident or the other shootings to call them at (225) 389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.

Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter @_BenWallace.