ITHACA, N.Y. – A Dryden man accused of killing an Ithaca woman was indicted in Tompkins County Court early Thursday afternoon, just over a month after the alleged murder.
Michael Davis, 45, is accused of killing Josie Berrios, 28, who was found dead at a construction site in Collegetown on the morning of June 13.
According to a felony complaint filed by police, officers found Berrios dead at the scene and reported that she had “apparent burns” on her body. Police also say they found an accelerant in the form of gasoline at the site.
In a felony preliminary hearing on June 19, Davis pleaded not guilty to two charges, second-degree murder, and first-degree arson.
Related: Man accused of murder in Collegetown pleads not-guilty; case transferred to Tompkins County Court
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Davis has been “charged with starting a fire in a building which caused the death of (Berrios).”
The Ithaca Voice typically does not explicitly state the gender or sexual orientation of people in our coverage, but as a well-known performer at The House of Merlot, Berrios’ death had a significant impact on the LGBTQ+ community. As a transgender woman, Berrios’ death raised concern in the local community, discussing the possibility that it may have been the result of a hate crime.
According to The House of Merlot, Davis and Berrios knew each other prior to the incident.
Related: 7 things to know about the Josie Berrios case: vigil, donations, support, police seeking more info
While the DA’s office was not able to comment on the specifics of the evidence of the ongoing investigation, possible hate crime charges have been ruled out. District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said there was no evidence to support that the charges related to Berrios’ death were classified as hate crimes under New York State Penal Law.
Davis was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday on a two-count indictment, charging him with first-degree arson and first-degree murder. The maximum sentence for first-degree murder could carry life in prison without parole.
Davis has been remanded to Tompkins County Jail without bail pending further action in the case.