Longform

The Killer Inside Him

Page 6 of 9

In May they went to a discount store in Fort Morgan and bought a .22 semi-automatic rifle. The purchase was a violation of Davis's parole, but he didn't think anyone would notice or care. They didn't.

If anyone asked him what the rifle was for, Davis had his answer ready. It was for all the snakes around his house.

I think Rebecca could have done a lot more than just shoot someone. You would have had to of seen her during the crime. She had so much jealous anger built up that I didn't even know who she was. (11/10/87)

I would get crazy thoughts in my head and my friend would give me the courage to live them out. (From "My Friend," an essay about alcoholism that Davis wrote while on death row.)

Gary Davis drank heavily in the weeks leading up to the murder. Bloated and bleary-eyed, he and Becky cruised around Fort Morgan, searching for their ideal "playmate." But as he saw it, the best prospects were located close to home, on the ranch adjacent to the property where the Davises lived. He talked often about his slender, attractive neighbors, Virginia May and her sister-in-law, Sue MacLennan--talk that made Becky furious.

A ranch hand would later testify that Davis made coarse remarks about May when they repaired fences close to her property. One time, while relieving himself, he even waved his genitals in the direction of her home, saying, "Come on, Virginia, baby. I'm here. Come to me."

The oldest in a close-knit ranch family, May was just weeks shy of her 34th birthday. She had a husband, a young son and daughter and a busy life of her own. She had no reason to suspect that she'd become a featured player in the squalid, pornographic movie playing in Davis's head. She barely knew Gary Davis.

As it turned out, Fincham and Davis targeted May only after two other attempts failed. On July 18, 1986, a woman named Tammy Beauprez, who lived on a farm south of Wiggins, was visited by a couple in a car bearing Kansas plates. While the woman driver asked directions to Byers, the man got out and tried to move behind Beauprez. When Beauprez's husband appeared, the man got back in the car and the couple took off. Beauprez later identified the odd visitors as Becky and Gary Davis.

Three days later--July 21, the last day of Davis's parole--Sue MacLennan received a phone call from Becky, who wanted to know if her husband was home. When MacLennan said he wasn't, Becky offered to drop off some used clothes for MacLennan's children. There were no clothes, but shortly after the call the Davises showed up at MacLennan's house with the .22 rifle in their car. Seeing a male ranch hand outside the house, Becky stayed only long enough for a quick iced tea. Her husband never got out of the car.

Early that evening the Davises showed up at Virginia May's door. May was expecting them; Becky had called her, too, offering children's clothes. She came out of the house with her four-year-old, Krista. Becky lured her to a tool shed with a request to borrow some wire stretchers. When they emerged, Gary Davis punched May in the face and dragged her into the car, while Becky shooed Krista into the house.

What happened next has been recounted many times, but never with absolute certainty. Davis and Fincham have made so many conflicting statements about their crime that none can be accepted as gospel. In one version, Davis hauls May out of the car, takes her out of sight and goes berserk while a helpless, terrified Fincham sits in the car, oblivious even to the shooting because she keeps the windows rolled up. In another, Davis is painted as a confused, passive accomplice while Fincham, in a jealous rage, barks orders and commits most of the violence.

The most credible version, based on statements Davis made to his own attorneys and physical evidence presented in court, is a duet of atrocity. May was stripped and dragged out of the car with a rope around her neck. Davis attempted, but may have failed, to have sex with her. (Despite his testimony in court that he assaulted May repeatedly, for years afterward he insisted he did not "rape" her--which could be true, but not, it seems, for lack of trying.) May was then forced to engage in oral sex with Fincham.

Throughout it all May fought and pleaded for her life. She offered the couple a thousand dollars to let her go. But both Davis and Fincham must have known where this was headed long before they pulled up at May's house. Davis struck her in the head with the rifle butt, fracturing her skull. She still had the strength to raise her hands in a final effort to defend herself as she was shot fourteen times with hollow-point bullets.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast