The father of a North Forsyth High School graduate who was found dead over the weekend described his son as an “awesome son” and “just friends with anybody.”
Aaron William Davis, 21, of Cumming, was found dead in Rome on Saturday, Nov. 12, after his car was found abandoned in a ditch in a park in the city and he did not arrive at his girlfriend’s home in Alabama.
“Saturday morning, I got a call saying that my car was found abandoned in a ditch up in Rome,” Randy Davis, Aaron Davis’s father, told Forsyth County News on Tuesday, Nov. 15. “I explained that my son had been up in that area, but it seemed odd because he was supposed to be in Alabama by that point. We hadn’t heard from him, but that wasn’t atypical. He doesn’t always tell us where he is every day, he’s 21.”
Randy Davis said the suspect in the case, Brandon Christopher Risner, also 21, was a long-time friend of his son and the plan had been for Aaron Davis to stop at Risner’s home in Rome on Thursday, Nov. 10 and travel to Alabama the next day.
“This is a friend he grew up with, and he was like one of our sons that stayed at our house all the time… just good friends ever since we’ve lived here for the last 11 years or so,” he said.
Randy Davis said the family filed a missing person report when they did not hear from his son and “because it was odd the car had been put in neutral and appeared to be rolled into a ditch.”
Randy Davis, other family members and members of Aaron’s girlfriend’s family traveled to Rome to help with the search before authorities found his body around midnight on Sunday morning.
Risner, also 21, was arrested on Saturday and is being held on no bond at the Floyd County Jail with charges of felony murder, concealing the death of another, aggravated assault and willful obstruction of law enforcement officers.
According to warrants taken out for his arrest, Risner reportedly "was involved in an altercation with the victim which caused the death of the victim and then removed the body from the location to another in an attempt to hide the crime" and ran from and disobeyed all commands to stop police during the missing person investigation.
A Rome Police Department spokesperson said Aaron Davis had several wounds that appeared to be from a bladed weapon, and his vehicle was reportedly found at a park on Saturday morning more than 2 miles away from his body.
After the warrants were executed, Risner turned himself in without incident, according to a news release from the Rome PD.
According to Forsyth County Schools officials, Aaron Davis graduated from NFHS in 2019 and Risner last attended the school in 2018.
Randy Davis said, as a student, his son was involved in the school’s band and acted in a play. Outside of school, he was an Eagle Scout, active in his church’s youth group and completed a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission in Las Vegas.
“Aaron was loved by all of his friends here,” his father said. “We lived formerly in Massachusetts, so friends from up there, friends from his college days in Idaho, friends from around the world have been reaching out. Our local church community has been incredibly helpful, providing meals for us, supporting us emotionally, sending friends over for our other children to support them, and not just our church, but the local community as well. The outpouring has been incredible.”
After graduating from NFHS, Aaron Davis attended and graduated from Brigham Young University–Idaho with a degree in political science, completed an internship over the summer and had just passed an entrance exam for a master’s degree program the last time his family spoke with him.
“On the day he disappeared, that morning, he took his exam he needed in order to apply and ended up with great scores, nearly perfect scores, on the exam, so he was pretty confident he would be able to get into the program that he wanted to get into,” Randy Davis said. “That was this coming week’s work, to get in the applications.”
A GoFundMe page, GoFundMe.com/f/aaron-davis-funeral-expenses, has been set up to help with Aaron Davis’s funeral expenses, to help with travel expenses for family members and help pay for transporting his body to Massachusetts, where the family cemetery is located.
As of press time, nearly $19,000 of the $20,000 goal has been raised from more than 230 donors.
“We appreciate the love and prayers and support that the community has provided,” Randy Davis said. “It’s overwhelming all the support we are receiving.”
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 3185 Dahlonega Highway.
Anyone with information on the cause should contact Rome PD Investigator Chris Ridling at 706-238-5111 or 706-238-5118.