FARGO — A man suspected of killing a woman and setting fire to a north Fargo apartment has criminal records in North Dakota, Georgia and South Carolina that include convictions for assault, false imprisonment, terrorizing and domestic violence, according to court records.

Fargo police said late Thursday, Aug. 1, that they arrested Sheldon George Davis, 44, in connection with an incident Thursday morning in which a fire was reported at a three-story apartment house at 417 12th St. N.

A woman identified by Fargo police as Denise Marie Anderson, 52, was found dead in an upstairs apartment. Police said she died of traumatic injuries suffered before the fire started.

Davis was held in the Cass County Jail Friday evening on suspicion of murder and arson, according to a statement from Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick.

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The statement said the investigation was ongoing and that Davis' bail amount had not yet been set. Burdick said another statement will be released when a charging decision has been made.

In an interview with The Forum at the jail Friday night, Davis denied knowing anything about the fire or death.

"I really don't know what happened," he said. "I haven't had a lot of information shared with me."

He said he had left the apartment house well before the fire was reported about 9:30 a.m., maybe about 5 a.m. or so, and that a camera on the building behind the apartment should prove he did.

Davis said he went to his friend Lenny Wild's house in north Fargo about that time. When asked about a local television station interview with Wilds, who said Davis basically admitted to him that he killed his girlfriend and started the fire, Davis said he didn't know why Wilds would say that.

"If I was guilty of something, I wouldn't tell him," he said.

Davis said the last time he saw his girlfriend of about six or seven months was that morning before he left, and he said she was sleeping.

"But she was fine," he said.

The two, Davis said, had been having "some rough patches, but it hadn't ever come to anything like this."

The day before, he said they were setting some boundaries when they met at her apartment, where they also sometimes stayed together.

"Right now, I'm torn. At times, I'm angry, and other times I'm sad about what happened," said Davis, who moved to Fargo with another woman in 2012.

When asked about his long criminal record, Davis said he was straightening out his life and that most of the problems were more than five years ago. He said he was "too old for any of this mess."

Sheldon George Davis holds his hands while speaking about his arrest at the Cass County Jail on Friday, Aug. 2. Davis is being held on suspicion of murder and arson. Meagan Deanne / The Forum
Sheldon George Davis holds his hands while speaking about his arrest at the Cass County Jail on Friday, Aug. 2. Davis is being held on suspicion of murder and arson. Meagan Deanne / The Forum

The main charge he faced in North Dakota was in February 2013, when he pleaded guilty in Cass County District Court to a charge of terrorizing in connection with an August 2012 incident at Longhorn Steakhouse in Fargo.

According to court records, Davis entered the restaurant and attacked a female employee he was acquainted with. The victim of that incident, who was not Thursday's homicide victim, told police she and Davis lived together for a few months in early 2012.

She said after Davis entered the restaurant, she tried to walk away from him, but he approached her and put his hands around her throat. She said she broke away from him before he could strangle her.

A server at the restaurant told police Davis entered the business and asked for a female employee. He said when the employee saw that it was Davis asking for her, she immediately tried to walk away.

The server said Davis then attacked the woman and began punching her. He said the attack ended only after a number of men were able to restrain Davis and take him outside of the restaurant.

The victim told police she met Davis in 2008 when she hired him at a restaurant in Augusta, Ga., court records said.

The woman told police that during the time she knew Davis, he was in and out of jail, and at times, she would try to help him by letting him stay with her.

In 2012, Davis was living at the apartment house, 417 12th St. N., where the body was found Thursday, according to court records.

Online court records show Davis has a number of convictions elsewhere in the U.S., including:

  • A 2009 conviction in South Carolina for assault and battery.
  • A 2007 conviction in Georgia for false imprisonment.
  • A 2002 conviction in South Carolina for domestic violence.
  • A 1999 conviction in South Carolina for assault on military personnel.

After pleading guilty in 2013 in connection with the terrorizing incident at the Fargo restaurant, Davis was sentenced to serve two and a half years, with two and a half years suspended.

Since 2014, Fargo police were called 23 times to the apartment house where the body was found, police records show. That included six calls for disturbances; four medical assists; two reports each for vandalism, animal complaints, people wanted on warrants and impaired persons; and one call each for a welfare check, stolen vehicle, suspicious parking, a parking complaint and assisting the fire department.