T. Cullen Davis

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Thomas Cullen Davis (born September 22, 1933, Fort Worth, Texas) is an American oil heir. At the time of his trial, he was the wealthiest man to have stood trial for murder in the United States. The prosecution alleged that he forced a 12-year-old girl into the basement of her home, making her kneel before shooting her dead. A Texas jury found him not guilty of the murder. The girl was the daughter of his second wife, whom he had been separated from for two years, and was in the process of divorcing. Cullen came to a settlement with the family of a man who was shot dead in the same incident, but for which Davis was never tried, contrary to what has sometimes been reported or implied.

Life and murder trial[edit]

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 hundred million dollars, was inherited from his father who founded Kendavis Industries International, Inc.. Davis had a reputation in Dallas society circles for displays of bad temper.[1] 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. By her second marriage, Childers had a daughter, Andrea Wilborn.[1][2]

Davis and Childers separated and both began dating other people (Davis later married his girlfriend). On August 2, 1976, shortly after a judge had granted a considerable increase in the support Davis had to pay Childers, an intruder entered her home and killed her 12-year-old daughter Andrea Wilborn, who had returned home from Bible School. 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 pursued by the killer as two family friends, drove up; one, Gus Gavrel Jr, was shot by the killer and left paralysed for life. The body of Wilborn, who had apparently been forced to her knees before being shot dead, was found in the basement.[1][2]

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 recognised 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.[1][2]

Other trials[edit]

Davis also won a civil case against him in relation to the murder of Wilborn.[citation needed][clarification needed] The children of Stan Farr later sued Davis for wrongful death and received $250,000 in a settlement.[3][4][5][6][7]

In 1978, Davis was arrested again, this time for allegedly hiring a hitman to murder Priscilla Davis, as well as the judge overseeing their ongoing divorce litigation.[8] The case hinged on a tape-recorded conversation between Davis and an undercover employee posing as a hitman, during which Davis was alleged to have asked the undercover employee to murder his wife; this trial, Texas v. Davis, has been called one of the first uses of forensic discourse analysis of tape-recorded evidence in a legal setting.[9] A discourse analyst testified that Davis' words in the tape did not constitute solicitation of murder;[9] Davis was acquitted.[10]

Later life[edit]

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 been fully developed.[citation needed]

Priscilla Lee Childers died of breast cancer on February 19, 2001.[11]

According to the profile on Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice entitled Oil, Money, and Mystery and on A&E's American Justice, T. Cullen Davis is a born-again Christian.[citation needed]

In books and television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d " Millionaires death case acquittal leaves doubts", The Spokesman-Review, November 21, 1977.
  2. ^ a b c Gary Cartright. "Rich Man Dead Man", Texas Monthly March 1977.
  3. ^ Maidment, Paul (2007-09-14). "All The Money In The World: Criminally Rich". Forbes.com. 
  4. ^ Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008.  Page 2.
  5. ^ Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008.  Page 1.
  6. ^ Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008. 
  7. ^ Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008.  Page 8.
  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.
  9. ^ a b 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.
  10. ^ Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008.  Page 9.
  11. ^ Gribben, Mark. "T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy". truTV. Notorious Murders. Retrieved October 28, 2008. . Page 12.