By Jim Miles
Back at home, the life of Tina Davis continued to deteriorate. At age sixteen she slit her wrists but survived the suicide attempt. Several months later, with Tina still rebelling, Joan and John decided to place her into foster care. Tina moved in with James Bennett, but the Resch’s served papers. Tina could be placed in a detention center.
In court, the Resch’s detailed their problems with Tina. When it was Tina’s turn to respond, James announced that he and Tina were married. She was shocked but played along. Tina agreed to marry him until she turned eighteen when they would divorce. James was “a monster,” she told Roll, treating her as a virtual slave. Tina and James divorced, then she dated another man and became pregnant by him. He never knew he fathered a child, Amber, born September 29, 1988.
By 1990 Roll had not seen Tina for five years. He had divorced, moved to Carrollton, Georgia, to teach parapsychology at West Georgia College, and remarried. Amber was two when Tina told Roll that the child’s balls mysteriously bounced by themselves and silverware bent in the drawer, but it was the spontaneous fires that worried Tina. She had also remarried, an initially decent man named Boyer who later beat Tina unconscious. When Roll suggested Tina and Amber move to Carrollton, they did. Roll and his wife baby-sat Amber, a precious child away from her mother, but troublesome in Tina’s presence. Roll saw a troubling similarity with the behavior of young Tina and her foster mother. Acting out was how Tina, and now Amber, gained attention from their mothers.
Roll convinced Tina to sign up for parenting classes, and she soon was attending nursing and computer courses at Carrollton Tech. Tina started dating a nice young man named David Herrin, also divorced with a three-year-old daughter. Herrin, who worked two jobs and lived ten miles outside of town, often kept Amber. Things finally seemed to be looking up for Tina.
Roll was in New York on April 14, 1992, when his wife called with tragic news. Amber was dead. Roll rushed home to find Tina and David in jail, arrested for murdering the child, beaten so badly that her brain swelled and hemorrhaged. Amber’s abdomen, head, and face were badly bruised. The damage seemed to have been inflicted over several days.
During police investigations that night, Tina and David both denied beating Amber. Tina did say that several days earlier she had picked Amber up at David’s and found her lip swollen. David and Amber swore she had fallen off a curb. Several days later Tina again picked up Amber from David’s care and found additional injuries. This time, David claimed Amber had fallen down the stairs. David said he had seen Tina slap Amber, and proposed that she had slapped her hard earlier that day.
Carrollton was outraged by this brutal crime, the media condemning Tina and David. She was allowed to attend the funeral, but seated behind a screen, and was dragged out by officers when she cried. Joan Resch flew in for the funeral but could not afford to bury the child. Individuals, churches, social agencies, and a funeral home provided all the materials and services for the child’s burial in the city cemetery. “The community is burying the child,” stated Coroner Sam Eady.
Tina received the services of a reputable defense attorney, but he was unaccountably dismissed several months later. Her treatment in jail was brutal – she received no care for the flu or dental problems, and trustees subjected her to lewd behavior. Tina developed depression and a severe sleep disorder, but months passed before Roll’s intervention finally gained her treatment. After six months a noted defense lawyer was assigned to Tina. However, he was also involved in a high-profile murder case in Atlanta, which occupied his attention.
Years passed and Tina languished in jail with no court date set. Finally, the trial was announced for October 31, 1994, two and a half years after her arrest. Tina’s attorney informed her that the only way to avoid the electric chair was to plead guilty and accept a life sentence. Roll vigorously opposed this, but the lawyer said photos of Amber and her injuries would appall any jury. Tina pled guilty to felony murder and cruelty to children, receiving a life sentence plus 20 years. To a reporter, Tina said, “I’m not guilty of beating her. I’m guilty of not taking her to the hospital.” Her lawyer claimed she had passed a polygraph test on that assertion.
With Tina convicted of murder, the state tried David Herrin for cruelty to children. Called to testify against him, Tina only harmed herself. She wore a provocative dress, and the defense showed an explicit video she had made for extra money – at one point in the film Amber entered the room and Tina hurriedly chased her out, followed by the sounds of a slap. Herrin was convicted and sentenced to 20 years.
Tina, 25 years old at conviction, was condemned to spend the rest of her life in prison. She is incarcerated at Pulaski State Prison in Hawkinsville, where Roll continued to visit her. Tina was denied parole after her 2007 hearing. Her next chance of parole is April 14, 2012. David Herrin was paroled on November 16, 2011, and returned to Carrollton. His parole will end on April 14, 2011, when his 20-year sentence is up
Tina was the “most convincing case of poltergeist activity I had ever witnessed,” Roll wrote. In his book, Unleashed, Of Poltergeists and Murder: The Curious Story of Tina Resch, Roll concluded, “one thing is certain. For a time Tina had the power to directly affect the physical world. I am convinced that this power is still to be found in the depths of her mind.” In 1994 Roll said of Tina, “I think that the abilities she had were a natural endowment of the human mind.” Further, “I really do consider her sort of a natural treasure who needs to be explored, investigated to see if her abilities can be revived in order to understand the brain processes that may have brought on these occurrences.” He also believed Tina “has already made a substantial contribution to science.”
The University of West Georgia had offered psychology degrees with an emphasis in parapsychology, and the school’s reputation was considerably enhanced with the addition of Dr. Roll in 1986, attracting students from around the world. He taught Life After Death, Introduction to Parapsychology, Phenomenology, and Study of Strange Phenomenon. Roll lectured on psychokinetic energy, near death experiences, recurring spontaneous psychokinesis, and localized psi-effects. After a half century of study, Roll concluded that the living generate phenomenon from within.
Roll left West Georgia when his foundation’s endowment ran out in 1990. Research labs were closed and the psychology department retooled its curriculum to a more clinical approach to the science. Roll died in a nursing home in Normal, Illinois, his home identified as Villa Rica, Georgia.
From Weird Georgia (2005)
Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org