T. Cullen Davis
Thomas Cullen Davis (born September 22, 1933, Fort Worth, Texas) is an American oil heir and member of a prominent Fort Worth, Texas oil family. Davis is best known for standing trial, and being acquitted, twice in the 1970s, first for the murders of two people at the home of his estranged wife Priscilla on August 2, 1976 and the second two years later for conspiring to murder the judge in his divorce proceedings against Priscilla. At the time of his first trial, Davis was the wealthiest man to have stood trial for murder in the United States. The prosecution alleged in his murder trial that he forced his 12-year-old step-daughter Andrea Wilborn into the basement of Davis' Stonegate Mansion, making her kneel before shooting her dead, and also shot Priscilla's live in boyfriend Stan Farr, a former basketball star at nearby Texas Christian University. A Texas jury found him not guilty of the murders. The girl was the daughter of his second wife, whom he was in the process of divorcing.
Life and murder trial
Thomas Cullen Davis was born on September 22, 1933, in Fort Worth, Texas. His wealth, which at the time of the trial was estimated at over a $100 million ($420 million in 2016 dollars), was inherited from his father who founded KenDavis Industries International, Inc. Davis had a reputation in Fort Worth society circles for displays of bad temper and general "creepiness", according to female associates. Davis' second marriage was to Priscilla Lee Childers. They were married on August 29, 1968, only hours after the death of his father. It was her third marriage, and she had one daughter from her second marriage, Andrea Wilborn.
In 1972, Davis spent $6 million to build Stonegate Mansion, a five-bedroom, 11-bath mansion with an indoor pool and a 2,000-square-foot (190 m2) master bedroom. In its prime, the luxurious, contemporary home of courtyards, tunnels and balconies at 4100 Mockingbird Lane was decorated with more than 100 oil paintings. The mansion was designed by Albert S. Komatsu and Associates.
Davis and Childers separated in 1974 and both began dating other people openly. On August 2, 1976, shortly after a judge had granted a considerable increase in the support Davis had to pay Childers, an intruder entered Stonegate Mansion and killed her 12-year-old daughter Andrea Wilborn, who had just returned home from a Bible study. When Childers and her boyfriend, Stan Farr, came back to the house unaware, both were shot and wounded, Farr fatally. Childers staggered from the house being pursued by the killer as two family friends drove up; one, Gus Gavrel, Jr. was shot by the killer and left paralyzed for life. The body of Wilborn, who had apparently been shot execution style, was found in the basement.
Childers identified Davis, saying he had shot her and Farr, wearing no disguise except a wig. Gavrel said he was shot outside the house after his companion recognized the gunman as Davis and called him by name. Davis was only tried for the murder of Wilborn. His defense concentrated on the personal life of Wilborn's mother during the two years Childers had been separated from Davis before the murders. Davis was found not guilty by a Texas jury. Davis was defended by famous Texas defense attorney Richard "Racehorse" Haynes. Of the trial, prosecutor Tim Curry said, "We were out-bought and out-thought".
In related civil litigation concerning Wilborn's death following the murder trial, Davis prevailed and was held not liable for her death. The children of Stan Farr later sued Davis for wrongful death and received a $250,000 out of court settlement.
In 1978, Davis was arrested again, this time for allegedly hiring a hitman to murder both Priscilla Davis and the judge overseeing their ongoing divorce litigation. The case largely hinged on a tape-recorded conversation between Davis and an undercover employee posing as a hitman for hire which was recorded in the parking lot of the Denny's restaurant where Davis was arrested. In the recording Davis was alleged to have asked the undercover employee to murder his wife. The trial of Texas v. Cullen T. Davis was one of the first uses ever of forensic discourse analysis on tape-recorded evidence in a legal setting in the United States. A discourse analyst testified that Davis' words in the tape did not constitute solicitation of murder;, and after a lengthy trial Davis was acquitted a second time.
According to truTV, Davis lost most of his oil fortune in the recession of the 1980s, and eventually declared bankruptcy. Cullen and Karen Davis sold their home to a real estate developer in 1984. The 300 acre property has since been developed as a commercial residential area.. Davis continues to live in the Fort Worth area, and Karen Master Davis, his third wife, died on September 22, 2016 of cancer. Davis in later life became a born-again Christian, and at one point worked with controversial televangelist James Robison.
In books and television
- A book on the murder trials entitled Blood Will Tell: The Murder Trials of T. Cullen Davis (ISBN 0-15-169961-5) was written by Gary Cartwright and published by Harcourt in 1979. A book on Cullen Davis, Texas vs. Davis (ISBN 0-451-17054-7), was written by Mike Cochran.
- Davis was the subject of the book Texas Justice by Cartwright, which was made into a TV movie starring Peter Strauss and Heather Locklear. The case was covered in a chapter of Creating Language Crimes (ISBN 978-0195181661) by Roger W. Shuy, a linguistics professor who was a witness in the case.
- The case has been profiled on TruTV's Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice - Oil, Money, and Mystery, A&E's American Justice as well as on the sixth episode of the first season of Investigation Discovery's Behind Mansion Walls. The case was also the subject of WFAA's McCaa Profiles.
- " Millionaires death case acquittal leaves doubts", The Spokesman-Review, November 21, 1977.
- Gary Cartright. "Rich Man Dead Man", Texas Monthly March 1977.
- Maidment, Paul (2007-09-14). "All The Money In The World: Criminally Rich". Forbes.com.
- Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008. Page 2.
- Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008. Page 1.
- Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008.
- Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008. Page 8.
- Shuy, Roger W (2001). "Discourse Analysis in the Legal Context", The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (eds. Deborah Schiffrin, Deborah Tannen, and Heidi E. Hamilton). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, p. 438.
- Shuy, Roger W (2001). "Discourse Analysis in the Legal Context", The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (eds. Deborah Schiffrin, Deborah Tannen, and Heidi E. Hamilton). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 439.
- Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008. Page 9.
- Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008.. Page 12.