Dana Sue Gray
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|Dana Sue Gray|
|Born||Dana Sue Armbrust
December 6, 1957
|Victims||3 (murder), 1 (robbery and attempted murder)|
Span of killings
|February 16, 1994–March 16, 1994|
|March 16, 1994|
Dana Sue Gray (born December 6, 1957) is an American serial killer who murdered three elderly women in 1994. She was caught after a fourth intended victim survived and identified her. Gray says she committed the murders to support her spending habits. She is now imprisoned in the California Women's Prison in Chowchilla.
Dana Sue Gray was born Dana Sue Armbrust on December 6, 1957, in southern California to Beverly (née Arnett) and Russell Armbrust. Russell worked as a hair dresser and had three previous marriages before marrying Beverly, who was a former beauty queen. They had several miscarriages before Dana was born. Beverly was an aggressive, vain woman. They divorced when her husband found her grappling with an older woman who had angered her. Dana Sue was two years old at the time and afterwards rarely saw her father; she began acting out to get attention. Whenever Beverly would discipline her, Dana would retaliate by stealing money to buy candy and would occasionally fly into fits of violence. In school, she did not get along well with other students and did poorly in all her classes. She was suspended from school many times for forging notes to get out of class.
When Dana was 14, her mother developed breast cancer; Gray decided to become a nurse after watching hospital nurses treat her mother. After her mother's death, Gray moved in with her father but was forced to leave after her stepmother found drugs in her room. A few years later, she became involved with a skydiving instructor, who got her pregnant twice; he convinced her to terminate both pregnancies, something she resented.
Dana graduated from Newport Harbor High School in 1976. She lived with her sky-diving instructor, Rob, for the next several years and he helped her with nursing school. She became an expert skydiver. In 1981 she graduated from nursing school, and for the next few years had an on-again, off-again relationship with Chris Dodson, a windsurfer. Dana excelled in windsurfing and golf, and they took trips to Hawaii to participate in these activities. In October 1987, Gray married a man named Tom Gray at an upscale winery in the Temecula area. He was a fellow sports enthusiast who had known and admired her since high school. Not long after their marriage, Dana incurred a large amount of debt. At this time, she did not have much contact with her family due to a dispute over an aunt's will.
She was a labor and delivery nurse at Inland Valley Regional Medical Center. They lived in the gated community of Canyon Lake where they had several business ventures under the name Graymatter. Gray left her husband in early 1993 and moved in with their friend and her lover, Jim Wilkins, and his young son Jason. In June, 1993, she filed for divorce from Gray, though this was not finalized until after Dana had been in jail for quite some time. In September 1993, she and Gray filed for bankruptcy to stave off foreclosure on their Canyon Lake house. Although the value of the house had greatly increased since they purchased it, they owed much more on the house than it was worth. On November 24, 1993, she was fired from the hospital where she worked for misappropriating Demerol and other opiate painkillers.
On February 14, 1994, Dana sent word through Gray's parents (Gray kept his phone number and address hidden from her) that she wanted to meet with her estranged husband. Gray initially agreed but did not show up. Later that day, Dana murdered Norma Davis, an elderly lady whose home Dana had shared for a time. Gray later found out that Dana had taken out an insurance policy on him. The policy would have paid off the Canyon Lake house in the event of Gray's death.
Norma Davis, 86, is thought to be Gray's first victim; because of the lack of evidence, however, Gray was never convicted of killing her. Norma was the mother-in-law of the woman (Jeri Davis) who married Dana's father in 1988. Jeri's first husband, Bill Davis, was Norma's son. Bill died in the early 1980s, and his widow eventually married Dana's father Russell Armbrust. Jeri continued to care for her elderly mother-in-law, even after she remarried. Dana knew Norma very well. On February 16, 1994, Norma Davis had been dead for two days when she was found by her neighbor, Alice Williams. Davis had a wood handled utility knife sticking out of her neck, and a fillet knife sticking out of her chest. Other than a broken fingernail, she had no other marks. A bloodied afghan lay at her feet. Detectives learned that there was no forced entry into the house. :3 Detectives were informed that she always kept her door locked unless she was expecting a visitor. Williams stated she could not remember Davis mentioning she was expecting company. Detectives found a Nike shoe print pointed toward the kitchen. They also found Davis' $148 Social Security check. On the first floor of Davis' condo, a smear of blood was found on an armchair. A ripped out phone cord was also found.
June Roberts, 66, was killed on February 28, 1994. June Roberts, like Norma Davis, lived in the gated community of Canyon Lake.:4 Gray had visited Roberts one day claiming she wanted to borrow a book about controlling a drinking problem. Roberts let Gray into her house. While Roberts searched for the book, Gray unplugged Roberts' phone, both the straight cord and the curly cord. She then used the curly cord to strangle Roberts. When Roberts was dead, Gray rifled through her credit cards, stealing two. An hour later, Gray went on a massive shopping spree at an upscale shopping center in Temecula.
Gray attacked Hawkins, on March 10, 1994, at her job at an antique store. Hawkins had been working alone that day. Gray came in to buy a picture frame for a photo of her deceased mother. Gray strangled her with a telephone cord. Gray took $5 from Hawkins' purse and $20 from the cash register. An hour later, Gray went on another shopping spree, using Roberts' credit card. Hawkins had survived the assault, however, and was able to give detectives a description of Gray. The next day the story was in the newspaper.
On March 16, 1994, Gray killed Dora Beebe, 87. A few minutes after Beebe came home from a doctor's appointment, Gray pulled up in front of Beebe's house. Gray knocked on Beebe's door and asked Beebe for directions. Beebe invited Gray inside to look at a map. Once inside Gray attacked and killed Beebe. Beebe was found later that day by her boyfriend of eight years, Louis Dormand. An hour later, Gray used Beebe's credit card to go on a shopping spree.:5
Effects of killings
Many of the residents of Canyon Lake were terrified. Some moved in with loved ones until the murders were solved. A group of elderly widows began sleeping in big groups at designated houses. They believed there was safety in numbers. A few residents theorised the murders were committed by a cult who engaged in ritual sacrifice.
Detectives had problems finding suspects early on. At one point, it was so hard to find a lead that the supervisor in charge recommended using a psychic. Before Dana Gray was thought to be the serial killer, detectives had few other suspects.
In the case of Norma Davis, detectives suspected Jeri Armbrust might be the killer. From talking to Armbrust, detectives learned she used to be married to Davis' son. After Norma Davis' son died, Jeri continued to care for her former mother-in-law. When Jeri remarried, it was to Russell Armbrust - Dana Gray's father; the connection to Norma Davis. Davis was in very poor health and was still recovering from triple bypass surgery.. Detectives also speculated that Jeri Armbrust had been in Davis' house the Sunday prior to the murder. Jeri Armbrust claimed she only stopped by Davis' house to drop off groceries and heard Davis' TV on upstairs, but did not go up to say hello; she just left, and went home. Detectives found it unusual for Jeri Armbrust to take care of someone who was not a blood relative, and she was wearing Nikes, and they also wondered why she would not say hello. After weeks of talking with Armbrust and building a rapport, Detective Joseph Greco, a lead investigator, realized she was not the person they were looking for. Greco and Jeri Armbrust became friends and began helping each other during the investigation. It was this relationship and trust which would be pivotal in solving this case.
Detective Joseph Greco, of the Perris Police Department, led the murder investigations of Norma Davis and June Roberts. He graduated from the Riverside County Sheriff's Academy as a pre-service student and ranked among the top ten (#7) of his graduating class. He was hired out of the academy by the Perris Police Department in 1988. Greco was highly decorated for his tenacity in the field and received numerous awards to include the Medal of Valor for running into a plane to save victims of an accident at Perris Valley Airport on April 22, 1992.
Greco was promoted to the rank of Corporal in 1992 and assigned as an investigator working all major crimes against persons. The first victim, 87-year-old Norma Davis case, in 1994, was only Greco's second homicide investigation. Because of the seriousness of the crimes and his lack of experience, Greco initially questioned his ability to do an adequate investigation, but would eventually solve the case. Additionally, his youthful appearance made people question his ability to do the job.
Greco suspected that the Roberts and Davis case were connected due to evidence collected in the case and ultimately discovered it was the work of one female serial killer. He identified Dana Sue Gray as a potential suspect and wrote a search warrant for her residence in Lake Elsinore, California; Ironically, on the day she was out killing her last victim, Dora Beebe, Greco arrested Dana Sue Gray at her front porch and took her into custody for the murder of June Roberts. The search of Gray's home revealed vital information belonging not only to Roberts, but also to Beebe and a surprise third victim, Dorinda Hawkins, who had survived her attack and later positively identified Gray through a photo line-up. Faced with a mountain of strong circumstantial evidence in the case against her, along with the threat of the death penalty, Gray would eventually plead to life without the possibility of parole and waived all of her appellate rights. She made one condition, however, and that was that the State would not prosecute her for the murder of Norma Davis.
Detective Joseph Greco worked for the Riverside County's Sheriff's Department's Lake Elsinore Station specializing in elder abuse, sexual assault and child abuse cases from 1998 to 2010. He was later promoted to the rank of Sergeant in March 2010 and is presently assigned to the Southwest Detention Center in the City of Murrieta, California.
Detective Joseph Greco graduated from the University of Redlands School of Business with an MBA in 2004. In 2007, he became a licensed California real estate broker.
Television documentaries involving Detective Greco include: The "Discovery Channel" for the following shows: "The New Detectives," Season 7, Episode 1, (New Dominion Pictures 2000), "Deadly Women" (Beyond Productions 2009), "Unusual Suspects" (LMNO Productions 2009) and "Forensic Factor 2" (Exploration Productions 2009) 
Detective Chris Antoniadas was the lead detective on the Dora Beebe case. Antoniadas interviewed Gray after Detective Greco finished interviewing her.
Antoniadas had a knack for getting criminals to confess to their crimes during interrogation. He knew how to relate to people in order to gain their trust and have the person open up to him. Antoniadas also knew how to play someone's religion or insecurities against them. While interrogating Gray, Antoniadas had no clue how to approach her. Gray seemed very cold and unresponsive to any of Antoniadas's approaches. Antoniadas finally decided he needed to take some of Dana's control away from her. He then interrogated Gray roughly yelling at her to confess but was unsuccessful. Seeing that also did not work, Antoniadas charged her with the murder of Dora Bebee based upon the discovery of Beebe's credit cards found in Gray's sock drawer during Detective Greco's search Warrant.
Gray was finally caught because her description was obtained from various merchants in the Temecula, California, area, where she used June Roberts' credit cards to go on a shopping spree. Dana had been spending so much money that the credit card company called June Roberts' family to alert them of the massive spending. The detectives then went to all the stores where Gray used the credit cards  and interviewed the cashiers, getting a physical description of Gray. They also learned the killer had dyed her hair recently and had a little boy named Jason. Detective Greco kept in touch with Jeri Armbrust. He began providing the description of the killer to her on a visit to her home. Jeri would reveal to Greco the next day that she believed the suspect to be her stepdaughter. Dana had just dyed her hair and had a boyfriend with a son named Jason. Detective Greco wrote a search warrant for Gray's home and enlisted the help of ARCNET (Allied Riverside County Narcotics Enforcement Team) to stake out Gray's home in Lake Elsinore.
Unbeknownst to the team, Gray was murdering Dora Beebe just hours before they began following her, trying to collect evidence. After seeing Dana go to the bank with Beebe's card and then go shopping, the detectives had enough information for nexus involving Dora Beebe's murder. Later that day, Greco arrested Dana while she was cooking dinner for her family. Detective Greco took Dana into custody while assisting officers took her boyfriend and his son down to the station for questioning.
During questioning, Dana claimed she never took the credit cards. After detectives said they had evidence of her using them, Dana claimed she found both Roberts' and Beebe's cards. She stuck with this story for hours. She claimed the reason she kept the cards was she had an overwhelming need to shop. She also seemed to have no sympathy for the victims.
Detective Antoniadas attempted to obtain a confession after Detective Greco's interview but was unsuccessful. Detective Greco eventually booked Gray on charges of murder. At a hearing on July 23, Deputy DA Richard Bentley requested the death penalty. Gray pleaded insanity on all counts. After a witness claimed to have seen Gray at Roberts' house the day of her death, Gray changed her plea to guilty of robbing and murdering two women and attempting to murder another. By pleading guilty Gray avoided the death penalty. On October 16, 1998, Dana Sue Gray was sentenced to life without parole and was incarcerated in the California Women's Prison in Chowchilla.:6
The case was featured in a LMN (Lifetime Movie Network) 2015 episode of Diabolical Women. Gray's murder spree was also featured in a 2017 episode of "It Takes A Killer" on the television channel Escape (TV network).
- Majidi, Afarin (14 September 2015). "Dana Sue Gray, the Shopaholic Who Murdered Old Women to Finance Her Shopping Sprees | First to Know". firsttoknow.com. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- Kathy Braidhill, To Die For, New York: St. Martins Paperbacks, 2000, pages 194–202.
- Ramsland, Katherine. "Addicted to Luxury: The Pampered Killer". Crime Library. truTV.
- Braidhill, pages 31–34.
- Bovsun, Mara (31 May 2014). "Justice Story: Dana Sue Gray". NY Daily News. NY Daily News. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
- Gorman, Tom (18 March 1994). "Woman Held in Perris Is Suspect in Series of Killings". Los Angeles Times. RIVERSIDE, CA. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- Braidhill, pages 66–67.
- Braidhill, pages 87–88.
- Braidhill, page 91.
- Braidhill, pages 73–74.
- Braidhill, pages 11–13.
- Braidhill, pages 26–29.
- Braidhill, pages 171–173.
- Bovsun, Mara (13 May 2014). "Justice Story: Dana Sue Gray". NY Daily News. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- "Season 1 Episode Guide". TV Guide. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
- Rice, Sharon (March 27, 2015). "'Diabolical Women' to feature CL serial killer". The Friday Flyer. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
- "Diabolical Women ~ Dana Sue Gray - Video". Dailymotion. Lifetime Movie Network. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
- "It Takes a Killer - Escape". Escape. Escape Media, LLC. 16 August 2017. Retrieved 9 October 2017.