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Milan man charged with murder in beating death of 54-year-old neighbor

Court records show that Ward Davis is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated arson.

MILAN, Ill. — A Milan man has been charged with first-degree murder in the beating death his 54-year-old neighbor. 

Ward Davis, age 39, is accused of hitting Julie Bowser Shell "multiple times with a hammer" during an incident at Pineview Apartment on Friday, September 17, according to court documents. This assault caused severe head trauma and ultimately led to her death.

Previous reporting indicates that Bowser was hospitalized in critical condition and passed away about five days later.  

One of the apartment's residents, Charlie Locke, told News 8 that he was the one who called 911 the day of the assault.  He said he saw smoke and found a burning gas can inside the apartment laundry room.  After making that discovery he found Bowser lying unresponsive on the ground, about 20 feet away from her apartment door. 

Locke said he stayed with Bowser until help arrived, describing her at that time as injured and having labored breathing.

Davis was arrested that day. He wound up being charged with aggravated battery, according to online court records.

The murder charge and an additional charge of attempted aggravated arson were added on Friday, September 24. Court documents state that Davis lit the fire inside the apartment building's laundry room.

Davis' bond has been set at $1 million. Online court records show that a preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 5 at 8:30 a.m. 

A GoFund Me page has been set up in memory of Julie.  A celebration of life has been set for Sunday, September 26 at Camden Park in Milan.