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Suspect accused of killing parents in Michigan dorm appears in court from hospital bed

James Eric Davis, Jr. is the wanted suspect in the Central Michigan University shooting that killed two non-students. (City of Mt.Pleasant)

A college student from the Chicago area who is accused of gunning down his parents in his Michigan dorm appeared alternately relaxed and confused during his first court hearing Tuesday.

James Eric Davis Jr. appeared via video from his hospital bed for the hearing in Isabella County court, where his bond for murder and gun charges was lowered to $1.125 million from $3 million.

Davis, 19, has been hospitalized since he was found after midnight Saturday, about 16 hours after authorities said his parents — James Eric Davis Sr. and Diva Davis — were shot to death in their son’s dorm at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant.

The family lived in the Plainfield, Ill., area and the younger Davis was a 2016 graduate of Plainfield Central High School. His father was a police officer in west Bellwood, west of Chicago, and his mother was in real estate.

Reclining in bed behind his attorney and wearing a hospital gown, Davis Jr. absentmindedly fidgeted with his mustache during Tuesday’s court hearing. When the judge asked Davis if he understood the proceedings, he looked confused and asked: “Can … can … can … can you repeat that?” When asked again after a second explanation, he paused and then said he did understand.

Prosecutors asked that Davis’ bond remain at $3 million and that he be required to put up the entire amount in cash in order to be released while awaiting trial. Prosecutor Mark Kowalczyk noted the severity of the allegations and that Davis is not from Michigan.

“It goes without saying how serious (the charges are), and as a result the defendant would be a flight risk,” Kowalczyk said.

Davis’ appointed defense attorney, Josh Blanchard, countered that Davis has no criminal record and said that “setting a $3 million cash bond is the equivalent of denying bond for a 19-year-old college student.”

The judge, Paul Chamberlain, then set bond at $500,000 for each of the two murder charges and $125,000 for the weapons charge and said Davis could post the full amount in cash or a surety bond.

Authorities have said that Davis was seen acting erratically the day before the shooting and was hospitalized that day, possibly related to drug use. His parents came to campus to pick him up from the hospital and were packing up some of his things in his dorm room when, authorities said, Davis Jr. fatally shot his parents with a gun belonging to his father. A manhunt ensued and campus activities were halted.

In court Tuesday, when consenting to waiving his rights to a speedy pretrial hearing, Davis was asked if was under the influence of any substance, including prescription drugs. He responded no.

Through an attorney, the Davis family released a statement to “express their love and support” for the suspect, whom they referred to as Eric Jr. The statement said the family wanted him “to know that he has not been abandoned.”

“Further, they want it known that Eric Junior is their main focus,” the statement said.

The family also thanked the Bellwood Police Department; American Airlines, which previously employed Diva Davis; and friends and co-workers “for the support they have extended to the family.”

The school announced Monday that normal campus operations would resume, though the college is on spring break this week.

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© 2018 Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.