Murder of Polly Klaas
Polly Hannah Klaas (January 3, 1981 – October 1, 1993) was an American murder victim whose case gained national attention. At the age of twelve, she was kidnapped at knife point from her mother's home during a slumber party in Petaluma, California, on October 1, 1993. She was later strangled. Richard Allen Davis was convicted of her murder in 1996 and sentenced to death.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2009)|
On October 1, 1993, Klaas invited two friends for a slumber party. Late in the evening, a man (Richard Allen Davis) entered her bedroom, carrying a knife. He tied the two friends up, pulled pillowcases over their heads and told Klaas' friends to count to 1,000. He then kidnapped the weeping Klaas.
Over the next two months, about 4,000 people helped search for her. TV shows such as 20/20 and America's Most Wanted covered the kidnapping. At the time, Davis was a wanted man: the California Highway Patrol had issued an APB for a violation of parole for a previous crime; any police officer who encountered him could arrest him on that charge. (The bulletin was broadcast on the CHP channel, which only CHP radios could receive. CHP practice changed after the case. Such bulletins are now broadcast on all police channels.)
During the search, police officers encountered Davis in a nearby rural area, where his Ford Pinto was stuck in the mud. Unaware of the APB, the local police released him after calling his driver's license number in to their dispatcher (which only traced his driving record, but not his criminal record). It is believed that he then drove to an isolated spot, murdered Polly, and buried her in a shallow grave.
On November 30, police arrested Davis for violation of parole during routine patrol and the arresting officer recognized him from police sketches. As his palm print had been found in Klaas' bedroom, he was charged with the crime. Four days later, he led police to Polly's body near Cloverdale. Davis said that he strangled her from behind with a piece of cloth. As the remains had decomposed for two months, there was no method to scientifically validate this statement.
Richard Allen Davis was tried and convicted in 1996 of first-degree murder and four special circumstances (robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and a lewd act on a child) of Polly Klaas. A San Jose Superior Court jury returned a verdict of death. At his formal sentencing by a judge, Davis provoked national outrage by taunting his victim's family by extending his middle finger to TV cameras. He is still on death row at San Quentin State Prison, in Marin County, California.
According to The Associated Press, Davis' attorney has complained that California's seeming inability to implement any executions in a timely manner has forced Davis "to endure the uncertainty and ever-present tension on death row for such an extended time constitutes cruel and unusual punishment".
Actress Winona Ryder, who had been raised in Petaluma, offered a $200,000 reward for Polly's safe return during the search. After Polly's death, Ryder starred in a film version of Little Women and dedicated it to Klaas's memory, since the novel had been Polly's favorite book.
Aftermath and legacy
Polly Klaas's body was cremated and her ashes spread over the Pacific Ocean by her family.
In the wake of the murder, Polly's father, Marc Klaas, became a child advocate and established the KlaasKids Foundation. He has made himself available to parents of kidnapped children, and has appeared frequently on Larry King Live, CNN Headline News, and Nancy Grace.
The All Points Bulletin was broadcast on the CHP channel, which only CHP radios could receive. CHP practice changed after the case. Such bulletins are now broadcast on all police channels.
Five years after Polly Klaas's murder, a performing arts center was named in her honor in Petaluma.
The story of Polly Klaas's kidnapping and the manhunt for Richard Allen Davis was depicted in episode 1, season 1 of The FBI Files documentary show, titled "Polly Klaas: Kidnapped" (which premiered October 20, 1998).
The Nirvana song "Polly" off of their album Nevermind, has been erroneously attributed to the Klaas murder. Contrary to these claims, Nevermind was released over two years prior to the crime.
- Kennedy, Helen (1996-08-06). "Polly's Smiling Killer Gets Death Sentence". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- 'Women' on the Verge; last accessed December 31, 2007.
- Provenzano, Sam (2008-06-27). "WBKO Talks With Child Advocate Marc Klaas About KlaasKids Foundation". wbko.com. Retrieved 2009-01-28.[dead link]
- "Performing arts center dedicated to Polly Klaas". sfchroniclemarketplace.com. 1998-10-01. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- "Polly Klaas: Kidnapped" at TV.com
- "Polly Klaas: Kidnapped" at the Internet Movie Database
- Franklin, Daniel (September 1994). "The right three strikes - three strikes and out law". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
- Tresniowski, Alex. "Polly, Alive in Memory." People. September 22, 2003. Vol. 60, No. 12.
- Warren, Jennifer. "Officer Details Suspect's Confession in Klaas Case : Courts: Detective testifies that Richard Davis said he strangled the girl to avoid imprisonment for kidnaping [sic]." Los Angeles Times. May 13, 1994.