Richard Allen Davis

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Richard Allen Davis
Richard Allen Davis (prison photograph) - 20070615.jpg
Richard Allen Davis in 2007
Born (1954-06-02) June 2, 1954 (age 66)
Conviction(s)Murder with special circumstances (robbery, burglary, kidnapping and lewd act upon a child)
Criminal penaltyDeath

Richard Allen Davis (born June 2, 1954) is an American convicted murderer, whose criminal record fueled support for passage of California's "three-strikes law" for repeat offenders. He is currently on death row in Adjustment Center at San Quentin State Prison, California. He was convicted in 1996 of first-degree murder and four special circumstances (robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and a lewd act on a child) of 12-year-old Polly Klaas. Davis abducted Klaas on October 1, 1993, from her home in Petaluma, California.

A San Jose, California, Superior Court jury returned a death sentence verdict on August 5, 1996. After the verdict was read, Davis stood and made an obscene finger gesture at the courtroom camera with both hands. Later, at his formal sentencing, Davis read a statement claiming that Klaas had said to Davis, "Just don't do me like my dad," just before Davis killed her, implying that Klaas's father was a child molester. Polly's father, Marc Klaas, lunged at the defendant but was restrained by the bailiffs. Marc Klaas then left the courtroom to avoid causing further commotion. Judge Thomas C. Hastings proceeded, saying "Mr. Davis, this is always a traumatic and emotional decision for a judge. You made it very easy today by your conduct."[1]

Early life[edit]

Davis was born the third of five children in San Francisco. His parents, Bob and Evelyn Davis, were both alcoholics.[2] His defense attorneys during his trial said that his mother had punished Davis for smoking by burning his hand.[3][4] Davis is of English and Northern Paiute heritage.[5] His maternal grandparents were from the Fort McDermitt reservation in Nevada. He and his mother spent part of his childhood with them.[6][7]

The couple divorced when Davis was 11. After the divorce, the children lived with their father, a longshoreman. Davis's father was sometimes unable or unwilling to care for his children, so they shuttled among family members and babysitters.[8] Davis's father remarried twice. Davis resented both of his stepmothers.[4]

Bob Davis was mentally unstable and sometimes suffered from hallucinations. He is reported to have taken a gun outside the home and shot at mirages. At an early age, Davis tortured and killed animals. According to Ruth Baron, the mother of one of Davis's childhood friends, "He would douse cats with gasoline and set them on fire. He made a point of letting people know he carried a knife, and he used to find stray dogs and cut them, however Davis had a pleasant and a good side at times, he would take care of his brothers and sisters since his parents were divorced, his sister said "Richard was like our mother and father in the same time who took good care of us."[citation needed]

By the time he entered his teens, Davis was deeply involved in crime. He told a psychiatrist that stealing relieved whatever "tensions" were building up inside him.[9] He dropped out of high school in his sophomore year.[10] At 17, when Davis was in court, a judge told him that he could either go to the California Youth Authority or join the United States Army. He chose the latter. He received a discharge after 13 months' service.[11]

On October 12, 1973, Davis went to a party at the home of 18-year-old Marlene Voris. That night, Voris was found dead of a gunshot wound. There were seven suicide notes at the scene and the police concluded that she committed suicide.[10] Friends of Voris believe Davis murdered her.[10] In 1977, he told a psychiatrist that her death had deeply affected him and he had been hearing her voice in his head and also, "At times another voice would appear, telling him that she wanted to be assaulted or robbed or raped".[11] A few weeks after Voris' death, Davis was arrested for attempting to pawn property he had stolen. He confessed to a string of burglaries in La Honda and served six months in the county jail. Five weeks after his release, on May 13, 1974, he was arrested for another burglary. He was sentenced to 6 months to 15 years in prison; however, he was released on parole after serving a year of his sentence.[11]

Criminal justice record[edit]


  • March 6, 1967: At age 12, Davis has his first contact with law enforcement when he was arrested for burglary in Chowchilla, California where he lived with his paternal grandmother.
  • May 24, 1967: Arrested again for forging a $10 money order. He was briefly in Juvenile Hall before his father moved him and his siblings to La Honda, California.
  • November 15, 1969: Arrested for the burglary of a La Honda home.
  • November 16, 1969: The first of several occasions when Davis's father turns Davis and his older brother over to juvenile authorities for "incorrigibility".


  • September 15, 1970: Arrested for participating in a motorcycle theft. A probation officer and judge accept his father's suggestion that he enlist in the Army to avoid being sent to the California Youth Authority.
  • July 1971: Entered the Army. His military record reflects several infractions for AWOL, fighting, failure to report, and morphine use.
  • Aug. 1972: Discharged from the Army after 13 months. Unclear if this was a general discharge, a less than honorable discharge, or a dishonorable discharge.[12]
  • February 12, 1973: Arrested in Redwood City, California for public drunkenness and resisting arrest. Placed on one year's summary probation.
  • April 21, 1973: Arrested in Redwood City for being a minor in possession of liquor, burglary and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Charged with trespassing, later dismissed.
  • August 13, 1973: Arrested in Redwood City leaning against hedges extremely intoxicated. Released when he was sober.
  • October 24, 1973: Arrested in Redwood City on traffic warrants. Between April and October, he was implicated in more than 20 La Honda burglaries, leading a probation officer to report that residents were so angry at him, he might be in danger if he returned to La Honda. He pleaded guilty to burglary and was sentenced to six months in county jail and placed on three years' probation.
  • May 13, 1974: Arrested for burglarizing South San Francisco High School. He is sent to the California Medical Facility, Vacaville, for a 90-day diagnostic study. A county probation officer recommends prison, but proceedings are suspended when Davis enrolls in a Veterans Administration alcohol treatment program. He quits on the second day.
  • September 16, 1974: Sentenced to one year in county jail for the school burglary. He was allowed to leave jail to attend a Native American drug and alcohol treatment program. He failed to return, leaving behind two angry fellow inmates who had given Davis money to buy drugs and bring the contraband back to jail.
  • March 2, 1975: After being released, the two inmates tracked Davis down and shot him in the back. He is rearrested on a probation violation for failing to return to jail. Later, he testified against the inmates, earning him the epithet of "snitch" from fellow inmates. He was placed in protective custody.
  • April 11, 1975: Arrested for parole violation.
  • July 11, 1975: Arrested for auto theft and possession of marijuana. Received 10-day jail sentence.
  • August 13, 1975: Probation revoked after arrest for San Francisco burglary and grand theft. He was sentenced to a term of from six months to 15 years in prison.
  • August 2, 1976: Paroled from Vacaville.
  • September 24, 1976. Abducted Frances Mays, a 26-year-old legal secretary, from the South Hayward BART station and attempted to sexually assault her. She escaped, hailed a passing car, in which California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Wentz was riding. Wentz arrested Davis.
  • December 8, 1976: Transferred to Napa State Hospital for psychiatric evaluation after he tried to hang himself in a cell at Alameda County Jail. He later admitted he faked the suicide attempt in order to be sent to a state hospital, where he could more easily escape. He was mistakenly admitted as a voluntary patient rather than a prisoner.
  • December 16, 1976: Escaped from the hospital to go on a four-day crime spree in Napa. He broke into the home of Marjorie Mitchell, a nurse at the state hospital, and beat her on the head with a fire poker while she slept. He broke into the Napa County animal shelter and stole a shotgun. He used the shotgun to try to kidnap Hazel Frost, a bartender, as she climbed into her Cadillac outside a bar. When she saw he had bindings, she rolled out of the car, grabbed a gun from beneath the seat and fired six shots at the fleeing Davis.
  • December 21, 1976: Broke into the home of Josephine Kreiger, a bank employee, in La Honda. He was arrested by a San Mateo County sheriff's deputy hiding in brush behind the home with a shotgun.
  • June 1, 1977: Sentenced to a term of one to 25 years in prison for the Mays kidnapping. A sexual assault charge is dropped as part of a plea bargain. He is later sentenced to concurrent terms for the Napa crime spree and the La Honda break-in.


  • March 4, 1982: Paroled from the Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy, California.
  • November 30, 1984: With new girlfriend-accomplice Sue Edwards, he pistol-whipped Selina Varich, a friend of Edwards' sister, in her Redwood City apartment and forced her to withdraw $6,000 from her bank account. Davis and Edwards make a successful escape.
  • March 22, 1985: Arrested in Modesto, California when a police officer noticed a defective tail-light. He and Edwards were charged with robbing a Yogurt Cup shop and the Delta National Bank in Modesto. Authorities in Kennewick, Washington, were unaware for several years that the pair had robbed a bank, a Value Giant store and the Red Steer restaurant during the winter of 1984–85. Davis later confessed to the crimes in an attempt to implicate Edwards, whom he believed to have reneged on a promise to help him while he was in prison.


  • June 27, 1993: Paroled from the California Men's Colony, San Luis Obispo, after serving half of a 16-year sentence for the Varich kidnapping.
  • October 1, 1993: Davis kidnapped Polly Klaas during a slumber party at her Petaluma home and murdered her.
  • October 19, 1993: Arrested in Ukiah for drunken driving during the search for Klaas. He failed to appear in court.
  • November 30, 1993: Arrested for parole violation on the Coyote Valley Indian reservation north of Ukiah, he is identified as the prime suspect in the kidnapping.
  • December 4, 1993: Davis provides investigators with information that leads them to Klaas's body in a field off Highway 101 near Cloverdale.
  • December 7, 1993: Charged with the kidnap-murder of Klaas.
  • June 18, 1996: Convicted of kidnap-murder of Klaas.
  • August 5, 1996: Superior Court jury in San Jose renders death verdict.[13]


  • July 2006: Davis was found unconscious in his cell following an opiate overdose but is resuscitated.[14]
  • June 1, 2009: The California Supreme Court upholds Davis's death sentence. Davis had argued that his jailhouse confession was inadmissible because it was given without an attorney present. The court ruled that this was justified by the public safety exception to the Miranda (Miranda v. Arizona) rule. His lawyer Phillip Cherney told press he intended to ask for a rehearing and will lodge a habeas corpus appeal with the state, and then federal courts.[15] Davis has been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.[16]


  1. ^ ""Before Being Sentenced to Die, Killer Disrupts a Courtroom." The New York Times; September 27, 1996. A-16". The New York Times. September 27, 1996. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  2. ^ Curtius, Mary (July 2, 1996). "Lawyer Argues Against Death Penalty for Davis". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  3. ^ "Jurors ask judge to sentence Polly's killer to die". The Tuscaloosa News. August 6, 1996. p. 13.
  4. ^ a b Dougan, Michael (July 16, 1996). "Davis' sister recounts his traumatic childhood". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  5. ^ "FMWC Staff". Fort McDermitt Wellness Center. Retrieved June 14, 2019. Norma Wasson Johnny, his outspoken grandmother (born to Ida and John Wasson in 1906 at Fort McDermitt)
  6. ^ "Richard Allen Davis - San Quentin Death Row, California". Retrieved June 18, 2013. Defendant spent his early years in South San Francisco, where his mother, Evelyn Smith, and his father, Robert Davis, lived with defendant‟s maternal grandmother, Norma Wasson Johnny (a Paiute Indian), and his stepgrandfather George Johnny.
  7. ^ "People v. Davis - 46 Cal. 4th 539, 208 P.3d 78, 94 Cal. Rptr. 3d 322 S056425". Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  8. ^ Dougan, Michael (July 11, 1996). "Davis's turbulent youth is detailed by relatives". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California: Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  9. ^ Warren, Jennifer; Richard C. Paddock (December 4, 1993). "Suspect's Palm Print Found in Klaas Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c "Police ask if Klaas suspect killed woman". Times News. December 14, 1993. p. 6A.
  11. ^ a b c Fields-Meyer, Thomas (May 13, 1996). "Odyssey of Violence". People. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  12. ^ Profile,; accessed July 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "RICHARD ALLEN DAVIS' LIFE OF CRIME". SFGate. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  14. ^ "Polly Klaas' killer survives opiate overdose". Associated Press. July 25, 2006. Archived from the original on August 30, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  15. ^ "Davis Death Sentence For Klaas Murder Upheld". KTVU. February 26, 2009. Archived from the original on August 30, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  16. ^ "Scocal". Retrieved June 18, 2013.

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