Andrew Dys

‘The Devil’ smirks while pleading guilty to Lancaster slasher murder

David Adam Pate was sentenced to life in prison in court Thursday. Pate killed a man and left the body under brush where the victim was later found by children.
David Adam Pate was sentenced to life in prison in court Thursday. Pate killed a man and left the body under brush where the victim was later found by children. adys@heraldonline.com

The dead man’s brothers screamed out in court that David Adam Pate, with the “cloven tongue” and “Satan” tattooed over his right eye, was “The Devil” – and that devil who loved the attention smirked and did not deny it.

Pate even smiled Thursday as he looked right into the cameras in court recording his every move.

A nobody was finally famous – for being a killer. A drug-addled, drunken butcher will die in prison, but not anonymously. His mugshot when arrested, the split tongue out in defiance, proud hate tattoos, has made online lists as among the worst in the world.

“I hope he suffers; I hate him,” said Rashawn James, brother to the nearly decapitated Rickey James, who died in in October 2013 in cold, lonely Lancaster County woods.

“He is the definition of the devil.”

Rickey James, a stranger to Pate, had an affinity for the bottle and started to trust people when he drank. That icy night, he trusted a man with a battery of knives and masks in his house. Rickey James – husband, family man – never saw the sunrise.

James’ other brother, Antwan James, shook as he spoke in court, his hatred for this killer so tangible that he asked the judge to order Pate to look at him. The judge said no, so Antwan James spoke to the back of the head of David Adam Pate.

“He has the serpent tongue, the cloven tongue,” Antwan James said in court. “You a devil, man!”

Antwan James then rushed toward an exit, punched the courtroom doors that shook and shuddered, and rushed out.

Pate, 25, never moved. He just smirked, again. After all, all of this attention was because of him.

David Adam Pate – in and out of jails and prisons for years – has “974” tattoos covering his neck, showing support for the Insane Gangster Disciples. It is the brand of those who hate in prison and want everybody to know it.

Pate put on a show in court, because Thursday likely was the last time he ever sees the outside of a prison.

His right eyebrow arched a bit, the “Satan” tattoo among so many other tattoos on his face and neck and arms and body twitched just a bit, and “The Devil” took his “praise” as if a country preacher were describing Pate dropping $5 in a collection plate when only a dollar was requested.

Pate showed no remorse, gave no explanations and offered no reasons. He simply said, “I am ready to plead guilty,” and wanted no more talks with his lawyer or anybody else. He was known in the Lancaster County jail for saying “Please” and “Thank you” to jailers. He had no rules infractions.

In jail, killer David Adam Pate slept like a baby.

He ate his honey buns and cereal in the last 504 days he has been in jail since arrest and smiled at the thought of 39 slashes he inflicted on Rickey James as he tried to cut off his head. The only thing that stopped him: not being able to find a hacksaw blade among the 20-plus knives big and small he kept stashed in his room.

“I just couldn’t get through the bone,” Pate told police, just as matter-of-factly as ordering a big hot breakfast.

A mental evaluation by psychiatrists who probed Pate’s brain for answers found none, but did find he is not insane and was competent to stand trial.

He just likes killing.

This is the guy who, while in jail, told his mother that he remembered every detail of the killing because he wanted to never forget. And besides, he enjoyed it.

The guy who told cops after his arrest that he covered the body because he wanted to come back and kill somebody else in the same spot.

There was no explanation given why a white prison gang veteran would kill a black man barely known to him. Pate only admitted to cops that he lured Rickey James with some cheap wine. No evidence was presented by anybody that there was a racial aspect to the crime.

In that meeting, Pate and James drank that wine and Pate tried to get James into the house Pate lived in with his mother and stepfather. Pate knew that would be met with opposition, so he asked James to follow him to the woods. James followed right into an ambush.

“I just wanted to play with the dude,” Pate told police interrogators after his stepfather told cops that Pate was bloody, had washed and then tried to burn clothes, then was matched by DNA to the victim.

Pate bragged about his killing knife, saying it was just like the kind the fictional masked serial killer Michael Myers used in the “Halloween” movies.

As video of the interrogation played in court, Pate turned his head to watch it. Detectives kept asking why Rickey James had a rope tied from his neck to his ankles, and Pate kept saying that he used it to try to haul the body away to elude capture. But he admitted that too much dope and booze had left him tired, so he just covered the body with some limbs and leaves within sight of his own house.

“I just leave him laying there,” Pate said.

The recorded confession lasted 15 minutes, but after 14 minutes Circuit Court Judge Dan Hall, hearing his first murder case since taking the bench in February, had seen and heard enough. Hall spent the last 25 years defending killers and putting them in prison as both a prosecutor and public defender.

But Judge Hall could, and would, hear no more.

“The court has heard enough, seen enough,” Hall said through gritted teeth.

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman told the judge that if he had listened through the end of the confession, he would have heard Pate say that he wanted to save the awful spot for another killing.

When that was said in court, Pate did not bow his head in shame. He beamed.

Hall sentenced Pate to life in prison, meaning death in prison, and Pate never changed expression. He walked out of court, looking for his embarrassed and shocked mother. The Satan tattoo danced over his eyebrow.

Pate walked out, and he did not apologize as all eyes were on him.

A man is dead, stabbed stabbed 39 times, David Adam Pate just smirked.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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