Andrea Parsons' detective discusses suspect, he says, got away
By Rachel Leigh| December 11, 2012 at 4:27 PM EST - Updated June 28 at 4:59 PM
PORT SALERNO, FL (WFLX) - Martin County Sheriff-elect William Snyder was a detective for the sheriff's office when Andrea Parsons, 10, disappeared from outside a Port Salerno store.
Snyder was a part of a team of investigators who spent countless hours searching all over the county looking Andrea only to never find her body. "I never come into this area without thinking of this child," said Snyder, who was outside the store Andrea was last seen.
Nearly two decades later, the disappearance still haunts Snyder, who said he has not forgot about Andrea or the man he holds responsible. "As a parent and as a resident of Martin County, I would have loved to have seen the successful prosecution of Claude Davis. It just did not happen," said Snyder.
The sheriff-elect said it was Davis who came to investigators back in 1993. Snyder said he remembers that Davis first told them he witnessed four Mexican men kidnap Andrea.
Davis would then change his story. "It's not our position to believe or disbelieve. We have the responsibility of investigating what he has told us," said Sheriff Robert Crowder in a 1993 press conference.
Davis told investigators back in 1993, he was collecting cans with Andrea when she fell and hit her head. At the time, he said, he panicked and left her body at Phipps Parks.
Later, Davis would tell investigators Andrea died, and he threw her body in a dumpster.
It was enough for the Martin County Sheriff's Office to arrest Davis according to Snyder. "We developed probable cause -- and we believed now and we believed then -- that he was involved in her abduction and eventual murder," said Snyder.
Snyder said when Davis admitted to dumping Andrea's body, they could not sit back and feared Davis could strike again. "We got to the point where we firmly believed Claude Davis was the offender in this case, and there was not an option for us to allow him to remain free," said Snyder.
The sheriff-elect said he hoped, back in 1993, the arrest of Davis would lead to Andrea's body or shake the case open.
It would not be enough.
Time for a speedy trial expired, and Davis walked a free man -- never to be charged again. "The time has run on Claude Davis and charges against him will never take place," said Snyder.
When Davis was released in 1994, reporters then asked him about how he felt walking free. "Man, I don't know how to describe it. I didn't think I ever would," said Davis.
However, in a recent interview with Fox 29, Davis admitted he watched Andrea die and helped bury her in a field. "I covered her up with a black bag and a piece of burlap sack, so the dirt wouldn't go in her face. I said a little pray and I left," said Davis.
Snyder still feels his team had enough evidence to arrest Davis. The only element he felt was missing was Andrea's body. "Until we recover that child's body, this case will never be closed," said Snyder.
The sheriff-elect said he does understand the case will soon be his responsibility, but clarifies he had nothing to do with the recent arrest of Chester Price.
Price was arrested weeks ago in connection with Andrea's disappearance. He faces a kidnapping charge and a murder charge.
Price is set to appear before a judge in the coming weeks.