Girvies Davis Executed Illinois Serial Killer

Girvies Davis was a serial killer who was executed by the State of Illinois for four murders

According to court documents Girvies Davis and Richard Holman would pull off a series of robberies where they would murder at least four people. Authorities believe the pair may be responsible for as many as nine murders

Murders They Were Convicted Of:

89-year-old Charles Biebe

84-year-old John Oertel

83-year-old Esther Sepmeyer

21-year-old Frank Cash

Girvies Davis was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. Richard Holman would be sentenced to life without parole plus 75 years, his age made him ineligible for the death penalty

Girvies Davis would be executed by lethal injection on May 17 1995

Girvies Davis Photos

Girvies Davis - Illinois

Girvies Davis Case

The scheduled execution of Girvies Davis early Wednesday by the State of Illinois has become something of a microcosm of the contentious debate surrounding the death penalty in the United States.

Accusations of racial bias, perverse police tactics and pointed criticisms of the criminal justice system are pitted against violence- weary citizens and public officials bent on justice and fueled by vengeance. Barring a last-minute reprieve from Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, Davis, 37, is set to die by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet for his involvement in the 1978 murder of an elderly wheelchair-bound man.

Edgar, a Republican, has not indicated which way he is leaning, although he supports the death penalty and has presided over three other executions during his term. Davis’ case has drawn no less controversy, and probably quite a bit more, than the preceding ones.

Prosecutors have painted a picture of a brutal young man who participated in a series of burglaries and killings in a ‘reign of terror’ in the late ’70s in the St. Louis Metro East area. The Illinois attorney general’s office and officials in St. Clair and Madison counties, where most of the crimes occurred, say 16 years of appeals is enough and it is time to put the case to rest. But a curious coalition including defense attorneys, journalists, former police officials, lawmakers and university professors have rallied to Davis’ aid. ‘If Girvies Davis is executed on May 17, he will become the first Illinois person in this century to die for a crime in which the actual triggerman was not prosecuted,’ said Northwestern University journalism professor David Protess, who has followed Davis’ case and has written several books on the death penalty.

The state doesn’t dispute that point. According to Davis’ confession, he and Richard Holman robbed Charles Biebel’s mobile home near Belleville on Dec. 22, 1978. Holman fatally shot the 89-year-old while Davis loaded stolen goods into a car outside. Holman, already jailed for another killing, has never been prosecuted in the case.

Davis was well aware that Biebel was going to be killed, having participated in more than one burglary with Holman that ended in murder, prosecutors contend. ‘After the third time he might have had a clue (someone was going to be killed),’ said Mark Von Nida, a spokesman for the Madison County state’s attorney’s office. St. Clair County Sheriff’s Police Capt. James Lay was one of the officers who took Davis’ lengthy confession and said Davis, then 21- years-old, said he and Holman killed their victims to avoid being identified. When asked why they didn’t wear masks to hide their identity rather than kill their victims, Lay said Davis gave a chilling response. ‘Just as cold as ice he said, ‘This was easier,” Lay said.

That late night confession from September 1979 is another point of contention among Davis’ supporters. Many insist it was coerced from Davis at gunpoint after a five-hour ride in a squad car. Attorney David Schwartz, giving pro-bono representation from the Chicago firm of Jenner & Block, said police pulled over during that night drive and ordered Davis out at gunpoint, saying, ‘You’re going to sign (a confession) or you’re going to run.’ ‘This isn’t a recent concoction. He’s been telling this same story for 15 years.’ Schwartz and others also contend that the confession should be thrown out because Davis was illiterate and couldn’t have read it before signing it. ‘He looked at it as if he read it….He said, ‘Yeah, that’s right,’ signed it and handed it back to me,’ Lay said. ‘Whether he could read or not, I don’t know.’

Mirroring death penalty cases throughout the history of the United States, the issue of race has become a factor. Davis, a black, faced a white judge, white prosecutors, an all-white jury and was convicted of killing a white man near Belleville, a town about 15 miles east of St. Louis with a rather dubious civil rights record. And Davis’ defenders point out that prosecutors used their pre- emptive challenges to remove all blacks from the potential jury pool, a practice that the U.S. Supreme Court later held unconstitutional. The ruling did not apply retroactively. Schwartz finds this aspect of the case ‘astounding,’ while Protess predicted the case would be overturned if prosecutors attempted a similar move today. T

he racial bent to the case prompted several black Illinois lawmakers to step forward and request a stay of the execution. The Congressional Black Caucus jumped in, saying it was ‘deeply disturbed by the racially discriminatory trial proceedings.’ Barbara Preiner, with the Illinois attorney general’s office, said all of the issues raised by the defense are irrelevant in the face of the brutal crimes committed by Davis. ‘We consider the ruling of the jury to be sancrosant, and should not be interfered with,’ Preiner said. Lay said Davis deserves to die and explained that he was unconvinced Davis wasn’t the actual gunman, describing him as older and more ‘dominant’ than Holman. ‘It’s dragged out for 16 years and it’s about time they put it to rest,’ he said.

Finally, Davis’ supporters argue that he is rehabilitated, having earned his high school equivilency while in prison and become an ordained minister in a correspondence Bible college. Probation officer Richard Cosey has testified to Davis’ rough upbringing in East St. Louis and said he was a career criminal, but not a violent man. ‘This gives the death penalty a bad name,’ said former Chicago police superintendent Richard Brzeczek, who describes himself as a supporter of capital punishment. ‘Nobody is talking about freeing Girvies Davies….He should spend the rest of his life in prison,’ Protess said. ‘(But) he doesn’t deserve to die.’

Prosecutors point out that claims of rehabilitation are nothing new coming from inmates and question how someone described by defense attorneys as borderline mentally retarded at the time of his arrest went on to earn his high school equivalency and ordination. Von Nida sarcastically suggested Davis was a ‘medical marvel,’ while Madison County State’s Attorney William Haine said he was a ‘liar and a street-smart criminal.’ ‘Girvies Davis is not the mythical figure created by Jenner & Block and a few Chicago newsmen,’ Haine said.

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