Longform

The Killer Inside Him

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Defense lawyers have speculated that Davis and Fincham took turns firing the rifle, partners to the end. A psychologist retained by Davis's appeals team suggested that the multiple gunshot wounds--nine to the head, four to the torso, one to the groin--may have been the work of an enraged woman seeking not only to kill but to disfigure her rival. But Davis has said that he, and he alone, did the shooting. He admitted it in his first, fragmentary "confession" to police and in his final televised apology to May's family, aired a few weeks ago.

Yet Fincham was hardly an innocent bystander. It seems unlikely either one could have been capable of such depravity alone; together they fueled each other's fantasies, goaded each other into the abyss. Investigators suspected that much of the sexual paraphernalia found at their residence after the crime--not just garden-variety smut but glossy magazines celebrating torture and pain, as well as a collection of dildos and butt plugs--belonged to Fincham, who was not above writing long, raunchy letters to her own daughter detailing her efforts to keep "Daddy" interested in her. Davis would later claim that she even offered him her fifteen-year-old offspring as a possible sexual partner, but he declined.

The two were instant suspects in the disappearance of Ginny May; when May's husband came home and found the children alone, they told him their mother was gone because "Becky took her." As night fell, the police and frantic family members attempted to question the Davises about May's whereabouts. Although Davis supposedly had consumed a case of beer that day (and would eventually blame convenient alcoholic blackouts for his failure to recall details of the crime), a sheriff's deputy thought he seemed quite sober. As she always did, Becky did most of the talking for both of them.

"We want to do everything we can to help you find your daughter," she told Rod MacLennan, Ginny May's father. "I know how you feel. I was once raped myself."

Later, at the Strasburg sheriff's substation, Davis insisted on being allowed to talk to Fincham before he would make any statements about May. The two were allowed a brief conversation in a small library at the station.

"The ball game's over, babe," Davis said.
"Don't tell 'em shit," Fincham replied. "We'll get a lawyer."

I hope Bob Grant don't tell everyone he won my case. I won it for him. (1/20/88)

I have already contacted a lawyer about putting a stop to my appeals. It has NOTHING to do with being chicken. I don't think a chicken could do it. Sitting in this little square hole for a decade isn't my bag of tea. I was raised in the outdoors and this is really getting to me. Even if I had a life term, big deal...I don't want a natural life in here...This is not a death wish it's what I feel best for myself. (5/24/90)

Trying to get executed a few years ago put me about three years ahead of Frank [Rodriguez]. You know one good thing about being executed first is, the needle would be clean. (2/15/94)

On July 21, 1987, a year to the day after the murder of Ginny May, Davis found out he was headed for death row. It took the jury only three hours to find him guilty of kidnapping and murder. It took another three hours to sentence him to death.

The verdict was no surprise. Two days earlier, Davis had sabotaged his own defense counsel by taking the stand and insisting on taking all the blame for the crime. Attorney Craig Truman had tried to save him from the death penalty by arguing that Rebecca Fincham, who'd already been convicted of murder and was facing a life sentence, was just as culpable as Davis, so Davis should receive life, too.

Davis, though, was the prosecution's best witness. He'd received a ten-page letter from Becky, who'd divorced him, urging him to "do the right thing." He decided that meant meekly answering "Yes, sir" every time Adams County prosecutor Bob Grant asked him if he'd kidnapped, raped and murdered May. Truman's frustration with his client was evident in his closing remarks.

"There are times in this case when I hate Gary Davis," he said. "Gary Davis has lied to me...In a lot of respects he has set me up for failure."

Davis had told Truman several different tales about his role in the slaying. In a letter to a psychiatrist seeking an evaluation of Davis, written a few weeks before the trial, Truman stated that he believed his client "fits the old sexual psychopath standard in that he is very twisted sexually... There is no question as to 'who done it.' Mr. Davis is tied up in this thing far beyond that which he is occasionally willing to admit. He has admitted the killing and most of the sexual acts to me."

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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