HOUSTON -- Leasing out property to make extra money turned out to be a decision Larry Davis may regret for years to come. For 14 months, the Woodlands dad found himself locked in a jail cell in the Dominican Republic, part of an island which is usually a tourist hot spot, but this was no vacation.
It was hot, conditions were unsanitary, according to his attorney, and Davis, 44, was going through hell. His future was uncertain and the reason why he was even there in the first place was something he could barely explain.
It began when he decided to lease out his boat. The person he leased it to hired a captain, a crew and an engineer -- but the cargo -- according to authorities, was almost 1,000 kilos of cocaine and 2.6 kilos of heroin.
"He [Davis]and his father for years operated a fuel-trading business in the Caribbean and Central America. They owned a fuel-trading vessel that they used to do this business," Davis' attorney, Sean Buckley, explained. "In late 2015, Larry's mother became diagnosed with terminal cancer. Larry and his father, at that point, made the decision that they would lease their fuel-trading vessel which is a 160-foot boat so that both Larry and his father could spend time with Larry's mother in her final weeks and months."
Buckley said the Davises leased their vessel, the Precon Express, to a Honduran man who they thought was also a fuel trader.
"As it turned out, that man and the crew of the boat ended up smuggling some drugs that Larry had nothing to do with, but because he was seen as the owner of the boat, he was implicated in the drug smuggling here in the Dominican Republic," Buckley said.
Authorities then lured Davis to the D.R.
"They called him down to address a boat inspection, that's what they told him, and being innocent and not knowing anything about the drugs, Larry came down to the Dominican Republic the next day," Buckley explained.
Once Davis arrived, he was detained and spent a year and two months in the country; away from his home, his children and the peace he knew. He was in a place where he was the odd man out, unable to communicate with his fellow inmates or guards.
Buckley said Davis felt "lonely."
"He was one of the few Anglo people in the jail. He could not have contact with his family or friends. His family was afraid to come down and see him in the Dominican Republic. They thought that since the family owned the boat, that any of them could be implicated along with him," Buckley said.
And the conditions were scary.
"The prison itself was what you would expect from a developing country. There were cholera outbreaks; one inmate died from cholera. There were problems with the clean water supply and conditions. It was a very difficult environment," Buckley said.
But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel decided to set him free. They found him not guilty of drug smuggling.
It was long overdue and what the Davis family had been waiting for.
"We are extremely pleased that Larry has been exonerated. In the Dominican Republic, the government has the authority to appeal the decision," Buckley said. "We do not believe, at this time, the government will appeal. We believe the trial judges are pretty strong in their opinion and that their opinion was designed to discourage the government from appealing."
Davis is expected to be released within the next few days and will await permission from the government before leaving the country.
He was emotional and thankful as he spoke with reporters while leaving the courtroom.
"I don't speak Spanish, I speak English," he said as he was bombarded with questions. "How do I feel? I feel fantastic, I feel liberated. I thank God, I truly thank God for this decision."