In 1993, Polly Klaas was abducted from her home
during a sleepover party with several friends. Richard Allen Davis, a
wanted man, had sneaked into the Klaas home, tied up the girls and
kidnapped Polly at knifepoint. Her abduction led to a nationwide manhunt
for Davis, and television shows such as 20/20 and America's
Most Wanted featured the case. Upon his arrest, Davis confessed to
killing Polly and burying her body in a shallow grave. He received the
death penalty for his crime.
Richard Allen Davis (born June 2, 1954) is a
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 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. Klaas was abducted October 1, 1993, from her Petaluma,
A San Jose, California, Superior Court jury
recommended the death sentence for Davis on August 5, 1996. After the
verdict was read, Davis stood and flipped the bird at the courtroom with
both hands. Later, at his formal sentencing, Davis read a statement
claiming that Klaas had said to Davis, "Just donít do me like my dad,"
just before Davis killed her, implying that Klaas' father was a child
molester. Klaas' father reacted angrily and left the courtroom to avoid
causing further commotion. Judge Thomas C. Hastings proceeded with the
formality of the death sentence, saying "Mr. Davis, this is always a
traumatic and emotional decision for a judge. You made it very easy
today by your conduct.
Richard "Rick" Allen Davis was born, the third of
five children, in San Francisco. Both of his parents, Bob and Evelyn
Davis, were alcoholics. His mother was a strict disciplinarian and is
believed to have punished Davis for smoking by burning his hand.
The couple divorced when Davis was 11. After their
divorce, Bob, a longshoremen, won custody of all five children "because
of the mother's alleged immoral conduct in the presence of the children,"
according to a probation report on Davis. He moved around a lot, living
variously in Chowchilla, Fremont, and San Francisco. The bulk of his
childhood was spent in the small village of La Honda.
Davis' father would remarry three times; Davis
resented all of his stepmothers. Although he had wanted custody when
their marriage dissolved, the elder Davis was sometimes either unable or
unwilling to care for his children, so they shuttled between their
parents, as well as between paternal and maternal grandparents. Bob
Davis was evidently 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, mother of one of Davis' 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."
A few people in Davis' life have happier memories of
him, however; his younger sister, Darlene, remembered him as a
responsible substitute for their often absent parents. "Rick brought me
up," she said. "He cooked and cleaned. He was my father and my mother."
By the time he entered his teens, Davis was already
deeply into a life of crime. He told a psychiatrist that stealing was a
surefire way to relieve whatever "tensions" were building up inside of
him. He dropped out of high school in his sophomore year.
At 17, Davis found himself in front of a judge, who
told him that he could either go to the California Youth Authority or
join the U.S. Army. He chose the latter. Stationed in Germany, he worked
as a military truck driver. He also resumed committing a variety of
petty crimes. The army eventually caught up with him and he was given a
less than honorable discharge after 13 months of service. His thick,
beefy arms were now covered with a variety of black tattoos, many of
them of spider webs.
On October 12, 1973, he went to a party at the home
of 18-year-old Marlene Voris, whom he claimed was his girlfriend. That
night, Voris was found dead of a gunshot wound; there were no less than
seven suicide notes at the scene, and the police concluded that the
young lady had indeed done away with herself. Others, such as Ruith
Baron, believe Davis murdered her.
Davis would later claim that Voris shot herself "almost
in his presence" and that he had been traumatized by it.
A few weeks after Voris' death, Davis was arrested
for attempting to pawn various items he had stolen. He confessed to a
string of burglaries in La Honda but claimed he had been motivated, at
least sometimes, by hunger. Davis 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 six months to fifteen years in
prison. He served a little more than two years.
March 6, 1967: At age 12, Davis has his first
contact with law enforcement when he was arrested for burglary in
Chowchilla, where he lived with his 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.
November 15, 1969: Arrested for the burglary of a
La Honda home.
November 16, 1969: The first of several occasions
when Davis' 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.
August 1972: General discharge from the military.
February 12, 1973: Arrested in Redwood City for
public drunkenness and resisting arrest. Placed on one-year summary
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
August 13, 1973: Arrested in Redwood City leaning
against hedges extremely intoxicated. Released upon sobriety.
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'
May 13, 1974: Arrested for burglarizing South San
Francisco High School. He was sent to the California Medical
Facility, Vacaville, for a 90-diagnostic study. A county probation
officer recommended prison, but proceedings were suspended when
Davis enrolled in a Veterans Administration alcohol treatment
program. He quit 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 was
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 and hailed a passing car in
which California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Wentz was riding. Wentz
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 Napa State
Hospital and went 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 a car 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 charged
was dropped as part of a plea bargain. He was 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.
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 when a police
officer noticed a defective taillight. 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 1984Ė1985. Davis
later confessed to the crimes in an attempt to implicate Edwards,
whom he believed to have welshed 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 Polly. 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 Polly's body off U.S. Route 101
December 7, 1993: Charged with the kidnapping/murder
June 18, 1996: Convicted of kidnapping/murder of
August 5, 1996: Superior Court jury in San Jose
recommends death sentence.
June 1, 2009: The California Supreme Court upholds
Davis' death sentence. Davis had argued that his jailhouse confession
was illegal because it was given without an attorney present, but the
Court said that police can ignore a suspect's rights to counsel if
they believe someone's life is in jeopardy.
Murder of Polly Klaas
Polly Hannah Klaas (January 3, 1981 - October
1993) was an American murder victim whose case gained national attention.
At the age of 12, 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.
On October 1, 1993, Klaas invited two friends for a
sleepover. Around 10:30 p.m., she opened her bedroom door to fetch
sleeping bags, when she saw a man with a knife. He tied the girls up,
told Klaas' friends to count to 1,000, and then kidnapped 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
At the time, Davis was a wanted man: the California
Highway Patrol had issued an all points bulletin for a violation of
parole for a previous crime: any police officer encountering him was to
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 let him go, presumably without
calling his driver's license number in to their dispatcher, which would
have resulted in his arrest. It is believed that he promptly drove to an
isolated spot, killed 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. Although there was no method to scientifically
validate this statement as the body had decayed for months, it was
consistent with the evidence.
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' memory, the Louisa May Alcott novel having
been Polly's favorite book.
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.
Five years after Klaas' murder, a performing arts
center was named in her honor in Petaluma.
The story of Klaas' kidnapping and hunt for Davis was
depicted in episode 1, season 1 of the The FBI Files documentary show,
under the title of "Polly Klaas: Kidnapped", premiered on October
In 2004, Klaas' paternal grandfather, writer Joe
Klaas (who, coincidentally, was best known for having co-authored a book
about missing aviator Amelia Earhart), endorsed California Proposition
66 to "fix the flaw in the law" of the Three strikes law. His son Marc
opposed the law.
Before Being Sentenced to Die,
Killer Disrupts a Courtroom
The New York Times
Friday, September 27, 1996
The killer of 12-year-old Polly Klaas was sentenced
to death today at the close of dramatic courtroom scene in which a
comment from the defendant sent the girl's outraged father from the room.
The father, Marc Klaas, rose from his seat and lunged
toward the defendant, Richard Allen Davis, before submitting to deputies
who hustled him toward the door.
Mr. Klaas shouted at the defendant as Mr. Klaas's
mother, B. J., loudly sobbed.
Mr. Klaas's outburst came in response to Mr. Davis's
accusation that Mr. Klaas had molested Polly.
Greg Jacobs, the prosecutor, said no abuse accusation
had been leveled against Mr. Klaas, nor was there evidence to support it,
The Associated Press reported.
''If I thought for a moment I could get my hands on
him, I might have gone for him,'' Mr. Klaas later told reporters.
Judge Thomas C. Hastings of Santa Clara County
Superior Court, who imposed the death sentence, said: ''Mr. Davis, this
is always a traumatic and emotional decision for a judge. You made it
very easy today by your conduct.''
Polly, a seventh-grader in the Northern California
town of Petaluma, was kidnapped at knifepoint from a slumber party in
her own bedroom as her mother and younger sister slept down the hall.
The Oct. 1, 1993, abduction prompted a
search that garnered international attention.
A twice-convicted kidnapper with a history of
assaults against women, Mr. Davis had been on parole just three months
when he took Polly from her home, killed her and abandoned her body at
the edge of a highway 60 miles away.
Mr. Davis confessed to the killing four days after
his arrest and led the police to her body.
In his statement today, he criticized the authorities
for refusing to provide him a lawyer upon his arrest, and said he would
not otherwise have made any admissions and forced his lawyers to concede
his guilt to several counts.
A jury in San Jose, where the case was moved last
year after efforts to seat an impartial jury in Sonoma County failed,
convicted Mr. Davis in June on 10 felony counts including the only
disputed charge in the case: attempting a lewd act with a child under
the age of 14.
It was Mr. Davis's final remark and the reaction it
prompted that drew gasps in the courtroom.
''I would also like to state for the record that the
main reason I know that I did not attempt any lewd act that night was
because of a statement the young girl made to me while walking her up
the embankment: ''Just don't do me like Dad.' ''
His last sentence was barely audible above the
murmurs that spread through the room, loudest among them Mr. Klaas's
shouting. But seconds later, Mr. Klaas suddenly rose and lunged, saying
obscenities as he was pushed from the room.
Mr. Davis's case automatically will be appealed to
the California Supreme Court, but can be appealed to Federal courts as
well, a process experts say could take 10 to 15 years.
Polly's smiling killer gets death sentence
Tuesday, August 6th 1996
Richard Allen Davis smiled yesterday as he was
sentenced to death for murdering 12-year-old Polly Klaas after snatching
her from a slumber party at her California home.
The girl's father, Marc Klaas, said the smile proved
that the man who embodies the bogeyman of every parent's worst nightmare
is a real-life monster.
"It's sad," he said, "that someone would be so
emotionally bankrupt that they would be smirking as their own death
sentence was being read to them."
After four days of deliberations, the jury of six men
and six women announced that Davis a parolee who confessed to strangling
Polly with a piece of yellow cloth should die by lethal injection.
"The justice system did not fail my daughter again,"
Klaas said. "It doesn't bring our daughter back into our lives, but it
gets one monster off the streets."
Prosecutor Greg Jacobs said Davis, 42, will spend
decades on Death Row running through appeals before he is executed.
But Klaas, with the gruesome smile of a vengeful
father, said he expects Davis won't live long in prison where child
murderers historically are targeted by other inmates.
"Richard Allen Davis deserves to die for what he did
to my child," he said. "I don't expect him to be executed, quite frankly
not by the state."
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas
Hastings can change the verdict to life without parole at Davis' formal
sentencing Sept. 26.
Davis was convicted in June of abducting Polly on
Oct. 1, 1993, at knifepoint from a slumber party, while her mother slept
down the hall in their Petaluma, Calif., home. The girl's body was found
in December 1993 in a shallow grave by a California freeway.
The shocking crime by a man with many convictions
helped spur California to adopt its so-called three strikes and you're
Davis' lawyers had tried to win sympathy from the
jury by revealing grim details of the abuse he had suffered as a child.
Polly's grandfather Joe Klaas said the family's
torment had come to some sort of resolution.
"We've been going to hell with Davis," he said. "He
can go the rest of the way alone."
SEX: M RACE: W TYPE:
N MOTIVE: Sex
MO: Suspect in shotgun
"suicide" of girlfriend; rapeslayer of 12-year-old girl
DISPOSITION: Condemned on one