Richard Allen Davis Murders Polly Klaas

Richard Allen Davis was sentenced to death by the State of California for the murder of Polly Klaas

According to court documents Richard Allen Davis would break into the Klaas family home with a knife. He would find twelve year old Polly Klaas in her bedroom along with two of her friends. David would tie up the friends and put pillow cases over their heads before kidnapping Polly.

Eventually Richard Allen Davis would be arrested and would lead detectives to the body of Polly Klaas

Richard Allen Davis would be convicted and sentenced to death

Richard Allen Davis was a career criminal and it was through this case that California passed the three strikes law which allows judges to sentence people to life in prison for their third felony

Richard Allen Davis Now

CDCR NumberD11903
Admission Date09/26/1996
Current LocationSan Quentin State Prison
Location LinkDirections
Parole Eligible Date (Month/Year)CONDEMNED

Richard Allen Davis Videos

Richard Allen Davis Case

Defendant, Richard Allen Davis, who had a long criminal history that included convictions for assault, burglary, kidnapping, and robbery, was paroled from state prison on June 27, 1993.   In early July 1993, defendant gained admission into the Turning Point Shelter in San Mateo, a transitional housing facility for the homeless.   While at Turning Point, defendant initially worked at a precision sheet metal company, later as a painter.

On the weekend of August 21-23, 1993, Richard Allen Davis took a bus to visit his sister and brother-in-law, Darlene and Richard Schwann, who lived on the Coyote Valley Indian Reservation in Ukiah.   The bus stopped at a depot in Petaluma near Walnut Park and Wickersham Park, which were frequented by transients and drug users.   That same weekend, defendant bought Richard Schwann’s 1979 Ford Pinto hatchback, after which he quit his job.   He used the car to make several trips to Ukiah to visit the Schwarms from September through November 1993.   During this period, defendant told an employee at Turning Point that he had gone to Petaluma to look for his mother, and on two different occasions he told one of his employers that he was visiting family in Petaluma.

At least four witnesses saw Richard Allen Davis loitering around Walnut Park and Wickersham Park in Petaluma in August and September of 1993.   Defendant stood out because of his disheveled appearance, his yellow headband, his heavily tattooed arms, his public drinking, and his peppered-gray hair and beard.   On at least one of those occasions, he was seen drinking and laughing in the park with his sister Darlene.

On either September 30 or October 1, 1993, Richard Allen Davis entered the Seductions adult store in Ukiah and bought a blue Rough Rider condom that the proprietor, Jeannette Turner, was “pretty sure ․ was studded or ribbed.”

Eve Nichol lived with her daughters, 12-year-old Polly Klaas and six-year-old Annie, in a small three-bedroom house in Petaluma near Walnut Park and Wickersham Park.2  On Friday, October 1, 1993, Polly had a slumber party at her home with two classmates, 12-year-old Kate M. and 12-year-old Gillian P.

Gillian arrived between 7:00 and 7:15 p.m.   After a few minutes, she and Polly walked to a nearby convenience store, bought popsicles, and returned home.   Their walk took them past Wickersham Park.   Just before Kate arrived, Gillian and Polly went out to the front doorstep to wait for Kate.

Between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., Kate arrived with her mother.   As Kate’s mother got back into her car, which was blocking the sidewalk, she saw a man walking straight at her vehicle, as if he was going to crash into it, so she jerked her car forward.   The man wore dark clothing;  he had rather bushy, gray and brown hair (possibly swept back in a ponytail);  and he was carrying something that looked like a bag.   Thirteen-year-old Kamika Milstead, a nearby resident, saw defendant get out of his car and head down the same sidewalk, carrying a bag or a box.

Meanwhile, the three girls played in Polly’s bedroom.   As Halloween was a few weeks away, Kate, who was dressed as a “hippie,” and Gillian applied makeup to Polly’s face to make her look “dead.”   Polly later changed into a white cotton denim skirt and a pink blouse that was tied into a knot in front, and removed most of the makeup.

Around 10:00 p.m., Nichol told the girls not to stay up too late and to keep the noise down, as she and Annie were going to bed.   Nichol went to her bedroom, which was separated from Polly’s bedroom by a bathroom and another bedroom.   She read in bed for a few minutes, with Annie next to her, and she and Annie then fell asleep.

From 10:00 to 10:30 p.m., the three girls played board games and video games.   Around this same time, nearby resident Taleah Miller was returning from a movie with her uncle.   As her uncle was about to drop her off, Taleah saw defendant carrying a duffel bag and walking toward her house.   Because Taleah was leery of homeless people, she asked her uncle to wait until the “scary looking” defendant passed the car.   As defendant passed, he looked into the car and slid his hand over his face, as if to conceal it.   Defendant was wearing dark clothing;  he had combed-back, collar-length dark hair and a gray-patched beard.

Around this same time, Sean Bush, Aaron Thomas, and Thomas’s girlfriend were watching a movie in Thomas’s “granny unit” behind Polly’s home.   While Bush smoked a cigarette in Thomas’s doorway, he could see Thomas’s bathroom, which was separately located on Nichol’s back porch.   At about 10:30 p.m., Bush saw defendant walking calmly and slowly up the stairs to Thomas’s bathroom.   When defendant noticed Bush looking at him, he turned his head away and reached for the bathroom door.   Bush described defendant as stocky with very thick and wiry hair that was styled straight back and lighter on top than on the bottom.   Unaware that anything unusual was occurring, Bush resumed watching the movie.

Meanwhile, the girls decided to set up their sleeping bags.   When Polly opened the bedroom door to retrieve the sleeping bags, she discovered defendant in the doorway holding a knife and a bag.   Defendant said, “Don’t scream or I’ll slit your throats,” and promised not to hurt them if they did what he said.   He told the girls to lie facedown on the floor and not to look at him.   Gillian and Kate initially thought defendant was a friend of Polly or her family who was engaged in a prank.   Defendant asked, “Where is [sic ] the valuables?”   He repeatedly told them not to be scared and “he was only doing this for the money.”   Defendant wondered aloud why there were so many people present and expressed surprise when Polly told him that her mother was in the house.   Polly said there was money in her jewelry box and asked him not to hurt her mother and sister.   Defendant was calm at first, but he sounded more “frantic” as events unfolded.

All three girls lay down in a row on Polly’s bedroom floor, and defendant tied their hands using a silky cloth, cords cut from Polly’s Nintendo machine, and a strap from Polly’s leather purse.   He also gagged them with a silky cloth.   He removed the cases from pillows in the bedroom and placed them over the girls’ heads.   At that point, Gillian no longer believed it was a joke.

Richard Allen Davis told the girls that he was going to take Polly to show him where the valuables were, that he would then return Polly to Gillian and Kate, and that he would be gone after they counted to 1,000.   Defendant then took Polly out of the room, promising he would not touch her.   At that point, defendant had been in the bedroom for approximately 10 minutes.

After a few minutes’ counting, with no sign of Polly, Gillian and Kate freed themselves, went to Nichol’s bedroom, and told her what had happened.   After they all unsuccessfully searched for Polly around the house, Nichol called 911 around 11:00 p.m.   Nichol did not find any personal property missing from the home, but a pair of red leggings was later discovered missing from a chest of drawers in the bedroom

Dana Jaffe lived with her 12-year-old daughter on a 192-acre parcel in Sonoma County, between Santa Rosa and Sonoma, on a rural hillside past the end of Pythian Road.   From its intersection with State Highway 12, Pythian Road proceeds northward.   At its end is a series of steep, curving, and narrow private roads, one of which leads to Jaffe’s home.  “No Trespassing” signs were posted on the private road leading to Jaffe’s property, and her house was several hundred yards past a gate.

About 10:45 or 11:00 p.m. on October 1, 1993, Jaffe arrived home from work and relieved her babysitter, Shannon Lynch.   About 11:15 or 11:20 p.m., Lynch began driving away from the Jaffe residence and, while still behind the gate, she saw defendant’s Ford Pinto wedged against an embankment and stuck in a ditch with defendant hunched over the rear bumper.   As she drove up, Richard Allen Davis appeared surprised to see someone else on the darkened road.   Lynch stopped her car and Richard Allen Davis approached.   He had bad breath and body odor, with leaves embedded in his hair as if he had been caught in the brush, and he was wearing a dark-colored long-sleeved sweatshirt that was inside out.   She asked what he was doing, and he replied, “I’m stuck.   I need some rope.”   When Lynch called defendant “illiterate” for not obeying the private road signs, he placed his hands on her window, told her to get out of her car, and demanded, “What’s up the road?”   Lynch remained in her car and told him there were people up the road who would call the police.   She then drove off.

Frightened and upset, Lynch quickly drove to the nearest pay phone and, at 11:24 p.m., called Jaffe, urging her to call the police about a “scary guy” on her hill.   Concerned about being alone with her young daughter, Jaffe dressed and got into her car with her daughter.   As they drove down their private road they saw defendant’s car but saw no one on the road.   Jaffe drove to a pay phone and called the police at 11:46 p.m.

Some 15 minutes later, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputies Mike Rankin and Thomas Howard arrived in separate cars and met Jaffe at the intersection of Pythian Road and Highway 12.   Because the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department and the Petaluma Police Department used different radio frequencies, Deputies Rankin and Howard were unaware of Polly’s abduction.

Jaffe led the officers back up the road, where they found Richard Allen Davis leaning against his car, smoking a cigarette.   Jaffe told defendant he was on posted private property.   Richard Allen Davis acknowledged the signs but claimed that he had tried to turn and had become stuck in the ditch.   Leaves, twigs, and other debris were in his hair and clinging to his socks, and he was wearing a yellow-and-blue-striped long-sleeved button down shirt.   Jaffe told him the officers would help him and she went home.

Deputies Howard and Rankin spoke to Richard Allen Davis, who smelled of alcohol and appeared to be sweating profusely.   Deputy Rankin patted defendant down and noticed that defendant’s pants were wet but his shirt was not.   Richard Allen Davis asked the officers, “What the fuck are you doing here?” and Rankin explained that the property owner wanted defendant removed for trespassing.   Defendant claimed he was passing through the area from Oakland on the way to see a relative in Redwood Valley and had pulled off the roadway to do some sightseeing.   He said he had tried placing dirt and brush under his car’s wheel to get traction.   The deputies, however, saw little indication of any dirt or other debris placed under the wheel.   Deputy Rankin ran a check of defendant’s license plate, but he transposed some of the numbers and did not notice that the car was not registered to defendant.   Richard Allen Davis said he was not on parole and had never been to prison.

Although Richard Allen Davis smelled of alcohol, Deputy Howard did not think he was intoxicated based upon the deputy’s observations of defendant’s pupils, balance, and speech.   During a consent search of defendant’s Ford Pinto, the deputies found a paper bag on the floorboard with three or four unopened Budweiser beer cans as well as two bags containing clothes, some of which appeared to be torn.

As the two deputies discussed ways to free defendant’s car and made unsuccessful efforts to that effect, defendant became more relaxed.   At one point, Richard Allen Davis opened a can of beer and began drinking it, but Deputy Rankin told him to pour out the beer.

After borrowing a chain from property owner Jaffe, the two deputies pulled defendant’s car off of the embankment and out of the ditch.   While Deputy Howard returned Jaffe’s chain, Deputy Rankin escorted defendant as he drove down Pythian Road to Highway 12.   When both deputies drove onto Highway 12 from Pythian Road, they saw defendant parked near the intersection.   At 12:46 a.m. on Saturday, October 2, 1993, the deputies cleared the incident with dispatch.

Polly Klaas’s abduction attracted national attention.   During the early stages of the investigation, as many as 75 agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and 50 Petaluma police officers canvassed Polly’s neighborhood for evidence regarding her disappearance.

For nearly two months, the investigation received thousands of leads and tips.   Richard Allen Davis, however, was not linked with Polly’s disappearance until November 27, 1993, when property owner Jaffe discovered, in a clearing a few feet from where defendant’s car had been stuck on October 1, a pair of child-sized red knitted tights (knotted at the knee), an adult-sized dark sweatshirt (turned inside out), and a knotted piece of white silky cloth shaped like a hood.   The hood was triangle-shaped with one knot at its broader end, two knots forming two loops at its apex end, and a concave area in the middle that appeared to have makeup smears on it.   The soil in the clearing was exposed, as if someone had purposefully cleared the area of ground cover.   That night, Jaffe called the sheriff’s office, left a message, and called again the next morning.

On November 28, 1993, Deputy Sheriff Mike McManus arrived at Jaffe’s property to inspect the scene.   He and Jaffe found an unrolled condom one to two feet away from the clothes, a torn Rough Rider condom wrapper, two pieces of strapping tape, a beer bottle, an empty plastic six-pack holder, and a book of matches.

Jaffe told Deputy McManus of the October 1 incident involving Richard Allen Davis on her hillside.   Because it was starting to rain, Deputy McManus was concerned about damage to trace evidence, and he did not follow normal evidence-collection protocol;  instead of leaving the scene intact, he picked up the items and placed them in a box.   He left the unrolled condom because he did not have materials in his patrol vehicle to collect such evidence and he believed it was a sealed container that would not be damaged by the rain.   Later that day, an FBI team took photographs and recovered the condom.

Deputy McManus researched the October 1, 1993, incident on Dana Jaffe’s hillside and determined defendant’s identity and his prior criminal record of assault and kidnapping.   He gave this information to the Petaluma Police Department.   The Petaluma Police Department’s lead investigator, Sergeant Michael Meese, examined the evidence collected by Deputy McManus with his department’s lead evidence technician, Officer Larry Pelton, and they agreed that the hood-shaped white cloth matched cloth pieces found in Polly’s bedroom.   The next day, an FBI laboratory confirmed the match.

The Petaluma Police Department learned that Richard Allen Davis was a parolee who had an outstanding parole violation warrant against him based on an October 19, 1993, drunk driving arrest in Mendocino County.   Defendant’s parole officer told them that defendant was at his sister’s home in Ukiah.

On November 30, 1993, Petaluma police officers and FBI agents arrived at defendant’s sister’s residence in Ukiah and arrested him, without incident, on the parole violation warrant.   They also seized defendant’s car and personal belongings.   Defendant had shaved off his beard.   Later that day, the officers transported defendant to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department, where Petaluma Police Officer Pelton and FBI Agent Larry Taylor confronted him about Polly Klaas’s kidnapping.   Defendant denied any involvement.

Two days later, on December 2, 1993, criminalists matched defendant’s palm print with a print found in Polly’s bedroom.   On December 4, 1993, after Petaluma Police Sergeant Meese had spoken to defendant in jail and encouraged him to contact Meese if there was any hope that Polly was still alive (see pt. II. D. 3., post ) defendant asked to speak to Meese and told him over the telephone, “I fucked up big time.”   He admitted that Polly was dead and agreed to help find her body.

That afternoon, Sergeant Meese met with Richard Allen Davis at the Mendocino County Jail where he, Sonoma County District Attorney Investigator Mike Griffith, and FBI Agent Larry Taylor questioned defendant for nearly two hours.   Richard Allen Davis claimed he went to Petaluma on the night of October 1, 1993, to contact his mother.   Unable to find her, he went to a park, where he drank beer and smoked a marijuana cigarette that may have contained phencyclidine (PCP).  Defendant said he did not have a clear recollection of what he did next.   He recalled entering a home through a window and hearing some voices in a room, but he said he had never seen Polly Klaas before that point.   He remembered tying the three girls up with items in the bedroom.   He then recalled driving and suddenly realizing that he had Polly in the front seat of his car, when she complained that the bindings were too tight and her hands were going numb.   Polly kept saying she wanted to go home.   Defendant drove around for a while, confused about what to do, and got lost driving up Pythian Road, where his car eventually got stuck on Jaffe’s property.   He then untied Polly and placed her on the embankment where she remained while he tried to free his car, at which point the deputies arrived.

According to defendant, he waited for about 30 minutes after the deputies escorted him off Pythian Road before returning to the hillside and retrieving Polly.   He then drove to a gas station so Polly could use the bathroom.   After leaving the gas station, defendant realized he had to kill Polly to avoid returning to prison, so he strangled her with a piece of knotted cloth.   He later cinched a piece of cord tight around Polly’s neck “ just to make sure,” then dragged her to some bushes and covered her body with a piece of plywood and chunks of wood that he found in the area.   Defendant said he did not think that he had sex with Polly or that he tried to have sex with her.

That same evening, Richard Allen Davis, accompanied by Petaluma Police Sergeant Meese, FBI Agent Taylor, Sonoma County District Attorney Investigator Griffith and other law enforcement officers, retraced his route after Polly’s kidnapping.   When they arrived at Dutcher Creek Road, located 100 feet from Highway 101, just south of Cloverdale, defendant pointed the officers in the direction of Polly’s body.

Polly’s badly decomposed body lay under a piece of plywood and other pieces of wood in an area covered with thorny blackberry briar, thick underbrush, and debris.   Her skeletonized skull lay a short distance from the rest of her body, probably as a result of animal activity.   Much of her body had skeletonized, including her entire abdominal cavity, with soft tissues and organs all absent, but some portions of the body, including her limbs, had dried in a “mummified” state.   Polly’s remains were partially covered by the nightgown Gillian P. had brought to Polly’s slumber party;  according to an FBI agent who observed her body, the nightgown was pulled up and inverted under her arms, which were folded across her lap.   Her pink blouse was untied and her white mini-skirt had been pulled up to her chest, but she was still wearing her bra and panties.   Her legs were spread outwards, bent at the knees and hips, which suggested that the body had not been haphazardly thrown into the brush or that rigor mortis had previously set the legs in that position.

Strands of Polly’s hair, located separately from her body and skull, had a braided rope and a knotted cloth tangled within them.   The examining pathologist, Dr. A. Jay Chapman, testified that the cause of Polly’s death was “unascertainable” because of the condition of her body, but that the rope and knotted cloth could have fit around Polly’s neck and might have been used to strangle her.   During the autopsy, when members of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team examined the remnants of Polly’s panties with an alternative light source, a stain fluoresced, indicating the possible presence of semen.   Further forensic testing, however, did not detect any semen at that location, which meant either that semen was never present or that it was present but had degraded so as to be unidentifiable.

After returning from the Dutcher Creek site on the night of December 4, defendant again described how he had strangled Polly with a piece of cloth.   He added that when he eased up on the cloth, he thought he heard her groan, so he tightened up the cloth again and tied a knot.   He then tied a cord around her neck and waited for Polly’s movements to stop, which he described as taking “forever.”

On December 6, 1993, Petaluma Police Sergeant Meese and FBI Agent Taylor questioned defendant again and confronted him with evidence that he had sexually assaulted Polly before killing her.   Sergeant Meese told defendant that they found semen during an examination of Polly’s remains.   When defendant asked where the semen was found, Sergeant Meese responded, “on the body,” to which defendant replied, “not in her though.”   Defendant denied sexually assaulting Polly.   When asked how semen could have wound up on Polly’s body, defendant replied, “Look I told you at least it wasn’t in her.”   He added:  “What I’m trying to tell you is that in my mind, at least I didn’t try to stick my dick in the fucking little girl.”   When pressed again about the semen, defendant responded, “that’s something that I’m going to have to live with and run through my mind over and over and over and over again.”   He also claimed it was a “load off” his mind and he was “glad” when FBI Agent Taylor told him that semen was found on Polly but not necessarily in her because he did not want that “hanging over” him.   Defendant expressed concern that he would be mistreated in prison if other inmates considered him a child killer and molester.   At the end of the interview, defendant said:  “I have to see what comes out of forensic-hope nothing comes up.   Hope nothing’s in there.”

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