Gary Lee Davis
|Gary Lee Davis|
August 13, 1944|
Wichita, Kansas, United States
|Died||October 13, 1997
Colorado State Penitentiary
Cause of death
|Conviction(s)||Murder (July 21, 1987)|
Gary Lee Davis (August 13, 1944 – October 13, 1997) was a convicted murderer and rapist who was executed by the U.S. state of Colorado in 1997. He is the first person to have been subject to the death penalty in Colorado since its reinstatement in 1975.
Davis was born in Wichita, Kansas. Although raised by his mother, he later claimed to have suffered sexual abuse from an early age at the hands of his older stepbrothers. After dropping out of school in the ninth grade, Davis joined the United States Marine Corps in 1961; he married Tonya Ann Tatem and had two sons with her before their divorce. Davis held various jobs before marrying Leona Coates in 1974; he was 30 and she was 17 years old. They had four children.
Although Davis apparently had a history of predatory sexual behavior, which he later admitted to in various accounts following his conviction for murder (on one occasion, he estimated that he had raped 15 women), his criminal record included only convictions for grand larceny and burglary in Kansas in 1970 and 1971, and menacing in Colorado in 1979. In 1982, Davis was jailed on a sexual assault conviction in Colorado; during his imprisonment, he struck up a correspondence with Rebecca Fincham. The two married in 1984, while Davis was still in prison. He was released in 1985 and he and Fincham moved to Byers, Colorado.
Murder, trial, and conviction
On July 21, 1986, Davis and Fincham kidnapped their neighbor, Virginia May, from in front of her children; they subsequently drove her to a deserted field, where Davis raped May and then shot her 14 times with a rifle. At trial, Davis confessed to the murder, despite the advice of his attorneys; he was sentenced to death exactly one year after the murder, on July 21, 1987. The jury took three hours to reach a verdict.
Davis alternately encouraged and suspended appeals of his death sentence, which was upheld by state courts in 1990 and federal courts in 1995. During the time he sat on Colorado's death row, Davis was able to reunite with some of his family, including his first two wives, and, according to some witnesses, experienced a dramatic spiritual conversion during his final years.
Then-Governor of Colorado Roy Romer refused to grant clemency to Davis, stating, in part: "[T]here undoubtedly has been some rehabilitation of his character and his demeanor. But I do not believe that whatever remorse or rehabilitation that is displayed here justifies reaching that extraordinary event that would cause this governor to give him clemency."
Davis's last meal before his execution was ice cream. Shortly before his execution, Davis also requested a cigarette; as a smoking ban was in place in Colorado prisons, his request was denied. He made no final statement before being executed by lethal injection.
Davis was pronounced dead at the Colorado State Penitentiary at 8:33 p.m. on October 13, 1997. As his death was the first execution carried out by the state of Colorado in approximately three decades, the event was subject to intense media coverage; about 200 anti-death-penalty protesters gathered outside the prison as Davis was executed, as did a smaller group of death penalty supporters. As of March 2015[update], Davis remains the only prisoner executed in the state of Colorado since 1967; his execution was the 417th carried out in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.