T. Cullen Davis
Preteen Andrea Wilborn died a cruel and violent death in the wine cellar of her family's mansion. The killer had her kneel on the floor of the cellar and shot her in the back of the head, execution-style.
A smeared, bloody handprint was found by police. Within hours, police had a description of the killer and a single suspect; T. Cullen Davis, one of the richest men in America and the model for the villainous J.R. Ewing on the nighttime soap opera "Dallas." In a series of events that emulate soap opera fiction, the billionaire oil man was charged in the most expensive investigation and trial in Texas history for the murder of his daughter and wife's boyfriend, shooting a witness, assaulting his wife and paying to have a judge murdered.
Many called it the best "justice money
Murder at Mockingbird Lane
The records show that there wasn't much of a moon that early August night in 1976, but it was bright enough to distinguish shapes from the shadows in the yard of the $6 million, 20-room ultramodern mansion in the 4000 block of Mockingbird Lane on Fort Worth's upscale southwest side.
Davis' mansion on Mockingbird Lane (Corbis)
It had been a rainy summer, which kept the nighttime temperatures down somewhat, so people tended to stay out later to take advantage of the break from the usual 100-degree days that mark the Texas summer.
On the last night of her short life, Andrea Wilborn was home alone on the 180-acre estate. Her mother,
Priscilla Davis, and her mom's boyfriend, former Texas Christian University basketball star Stan Farr, had gone out for a late dinner to celebrate the
conclusion of a rancorous court hearing in the front-page divorce proceeding of Davis and her millionaire husband, T. Cullen Davis.
Andrea Wilborn, victim
What the final moments of life were like for the tall, quiet preteen who was remembered as a fervent animal lover, no one really knows, except that she died a cruel and violent death in the basement of her family's mansion. She had either been dragged to the wine cellar of the house by force or gone willingly with someone she probably knew. When she got there, the killer had her kneel on the floor of the cellar and shot her in the back of the head, execution-style. The killer was undoubtedly splashed with some of Andrea's blood, because a smeared, bloody handprint was found elsewhere in the house by police.
Detectives surmise that the killer didn't expect to find Andrea at the house - she lived with her father elsewhere - and they doubt that she was the intended target. Like so many other murder victims, she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gunman was likely after her mother, a flamboyant and gregarious woman who reveled in her wealth and flaunted it openly.
After killing Andrea, the murderer lay in wait for Priscilla and Stan to return from their night on the town.
Priscilla noticed something amiss as soon as she and Stan came in. The mansion's alarm system had been deactivated, and while this was troubling, it wasn't out of the ordinary. Priscilla's older daughter, Dee, was expected home that night and had probably forgotten to arm the alarm.
As Stan headed upstairs toward the master bedroom, Priscilla ducked into the kitchen, where a light burned. She noticed that another light on the stairway leading to the basement was also lit and started toward it to turn it off. Then she saw the bloody handprint on the wall, halfway up the stairwell.
Screaming for Stan, Priscilla turned toward the bedroom, but she was stopped by the gunman, who appeared from the first-floor laundry.
Kitchen, blood, screen door, crime scene
"Hi," said the killer, and he pulled the trigger.
The shot hit Priscilla in the chest, a fact that would later be noted by many of the news reports as "between her silicone-enhanced breasts," and the socialite fell to the ground.
"Stan! Run, it's Cullen!" Priscilla remembers calling out, but it was too late for Farr to get away.
As Priscilla lay wounded, Stan Farr appeared and was immediately shot by the black-clothed gunman. The first shot hit him in the neck, but Farr, still very healthy from his basketball days, continued on and began struggling with the killer.
Stan Farr, victim
"Cullen shot me!"
The fight gave Priscilla a chance to flee, which she did, screaming "Cullen shot me!" over and over. The struggle didn't last much longer as the killer pumped four more slugs into Farr's body. He dropped to the ground and the killer took off after Priscilla.
She managed to make it outside the mansion before falling. Lying on the ground, she looked up at the gunman, who stood over her. He was dressed all in black and wore a woman's black wig over his head. His hands were inside a black plastic bag and were holding a .38 caliber revolver. Priscilla identified the man as T. Cullen Davis. She called out to him.
"Cullen, I love you," she pleaded. "Please, let's talk."
The man reached for her legs and started dragging her inside the house.
"C'mon," was all he said, never acknowledging Priscilla's words. For reasons never disclosed, the man abruptly dropped Priscilla's legs and started to go back to where Stan Farr lay dead.
As this was happening, a young couple sauntered up the path toward the house and into the carnage. They heard Priscilla tell the gunman she loved him. In the moonlight, the woman, Beverly Bass, a teenage friend of Priscilla's older daughter who was staying at the mansion, whispered to her companion.
"Bubba, that's Cullen!" she said.
The gunman heard the whisper and turned toward the couple, firing a shot that hit 22-year-old Gus "Bubba" Gavrel Jr. in the stomach and lodged next to his spine. Wounded, Bubba fell to the ground and watched helplessly as the man came toward Beverly.
Adrenaline pumping, Bass turned on her heels and headed down the driveway with the gunman in pursuit, oblivious to the moaning boy on the ground. She managed to put some distance between her and the killer and Beverly reached Mockingbird Lane with enough time to flag down a passing car.
Meanwhile, Priscilla managed to run more than a half mile to the nearest neighbor, where she screamed "Cullen is up there killing my children. He's killing everyone."
By the time police arrived, the killer had disappeared into the night.
Back at the mansion, police found 30-year-old Stan Farr dead in a pool of glass and blood in the kitchen of the home and 12-year-old Andrea Wilborn murdered in the basement. Bubba Gavrel survived his wounds, although the bullet damaged his spine and left him unable to walk without the help of crutches. Priscilla Davis, 35, also survived the gunshot to the chest.
Within hours, police had a description of the killer and a single suspect T. Cullen Davis, one of the richest men in America and the model for the villainous J.R. Ewing on the nighttime soap opera "Dallas." Beverly was able to tell the first police on the scene that it was Cullen who came down the driveway and opened fire on her and her boyfriend. After they emerged from surgery, both Priscilla and Bubba corroborated Beverly's story. Bubba was the only witness to the shootings who did not know the name of the man police suspected, but he was able to identify a photograph of Cullen.
Cullen's older brother, Ken, was the first to call the suspect at his girlfriend's house. It was about 4 a.m., and Cullen and Karen Masters would later swear they had been in bed since before midnight. When Ken Davis woke his brother to tell him of the murders at his mansion, Cullen's reaction was surprising.
"Well, I guess I'll be going back to bed," Cullen said, hanging up the phone.
That's where authorities found him when they showed up about a half-hour later and took him to Fort Worth police headquarters for interrogation. One of the most expensive murder investigations and trials in Texas history was about to begin.
Priscilla and Cullen
The murders at Mockingbird Lane were not the beginning of the Priscilla and Cullen show; to the rich elite of Fort Worth they were just another chapter in a story that was as big as Texas and as dirty as the Rio Grande. Priscilla Wilborn was a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks who was lucky enough to be born with enough good looks and personality to attract the wealthiest men in Texas. She was amply endowed on top (she called her bust "her balcony") and she was brazen enough to wear the most daring outfits that set the high-society women chattering and made the men stare.
"Even before the shootings, Priscilla was a one-name woman to friend or foe, and there were scads of both," said Mike Cochran, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter who knew Priscilla probably better than anyone else in the media. "In the early years of her marriage to Cullen, she was a personality whom people loved to hate. Her provocative wardrobe could cause whiplash, and you could almost hear the sound of eyebrows arching when she appeared wearing her diamond-studded 'Rich Bitch' necklace."
They met n the mid-1960s and began a passionate affair. On New Year's Day 1968, Priscilla's husband and a platoon of private detectives burst in on the pair in a Dallas love nest, which ended her second marriage. She and Cullen were married later that year, six hours after his father died.
T. Cullen Davis, younger (AP/Wide World)
Cullen was almost as reserved as Priscilla was brassy. He was the middle of three brothers, each more private than the last. Cullen and his older brother, Kenneth Davis Jr., had inherited their father's privately held oilfield supply and production company that had $2 billion in sales in 1980. The third brother had been part of Kendavis Industries until Cullen and Ken Jr. forced him out. Ken was especially reclusive. He rarely met face to face with his employees, and his servants left his meals on a tray outside his locked office door.
Long before the company went bust in the barren days of the late 1980s, Cullen and Ken Jr. were mismanaging the operation. "They've done their damndest to wreck the company," Forbes magazine reported in 1987.
But in the late 1970s, Kendavis Industries was flying high and so were Cullen and Priscilla. She decorated their skybox at Texas Stadium in a very un-Cowboy-like pink and careened about town in a huge Lincoln Continental as befitted the wife of a Texas oil billionaire.
Priscilla moved into Mockingbird Mansion and filled the house and its 180 acres with jade, gold and other priceless art treasures.
"Priscillawas all flash and trash, the saucy princess of Texas vamp," wrote Texas Monthly editor Skip Hollandsworth in a New York Times Magazine retrospective of Priscilla Davis. "She had a mane of platinum hair and a closet full of tight miniskirts and specially designed low-cut halter tops. Each spring at the Colonial National Invitational golf tournament in Fort Worth, hordes of men would gather around her just to get a peek."
Life was one big party during those salad days of the Texas oil boom, and Patricia and Cullen were at the center of it. They reportedly liked drugs, sex and country music and even before the venom started flying in their divorce, there were rumors of orgies and drunken bacchanalias at Mockingbird Lane. Once, Cullen brought in a portable theater and gave a showing of the film "Deep Throat" to his friends.
But like an oil boom, the good times couldn't last. Priscilla and Cullen were too much to stay together and in 1974 she filed for divorce. He was mean and abusive, she claimed in court papers.
The wavy-haired Cullen, Texas' richest oil baron, fired back. Priscilla was a "wanton adulterer who slept with, among others, a pot-smoking biker," he claimed in court papers.
The divorce dragged on, in public spats and in private brawls in the mahogany-walled offices of Fort Worth's most powerful civil law firms. Two years would go by and little progress would be made over the dissolution of the marriage and distribution of assets. Cullen was ordered to move out of the Mockingbird mansion and to pay for Priscilla's upkeep.
Meanwhile, she started going around town with Stan Farr and he met Karen Master and began an affair with her. Then in August 1976 the judge in the divorce trial ordered Cullen to pay Priscilla $5,000 per month in separate maintenance and another $52,000 for legal bills she had incurred.
When Cullen, who was not at the hearing where the judge made his ruling, found out about the decree, friends remember that he was livid.
That night, a man dressed in black, wearing a woman's wig, entered the mansion on Mockingbird Lane intent on murder.
A man don't need a reason"
Fort Worth Police rousted Cullen out of bed a half-hour after his brother called and he willingly went downtown to talk with police. Based on the eyewitness testimony of survivors, their investigation centered on Cullen from the get-go.
Cullen didn't help his case at all. At one point a Fort Worth police detective asked Davis why so many people had to die at the mansion. He took Cullen's response as a confession.
"Sometimes, a man don't need a reason," Cullen replied.
Unfortunately, the exchange took place before Davis was Mirandized and was inadmissible in court.
Within days, Cullen was charged with murder, but he easily met bail and was out on the street in a matter of hours. That irked prosecutors a bit, and they reviewed the evidence in the case and opted to up the ante and try Cullen for capital murder in the death of Andrea Wilborn. They could go for the death penalty because Cullen had been barred from the mansion and his appearance there on the night of the murder was therefore a burglary, a crime. The capital murder charge gave the law the opportunity to revoke Cullen's bail and he was taken to the Tarrant County Jail to await trial.
From the beginning, the prosecutors knew that this case was far from a slam dunk.
"This is the first time the defendant in a murder trial has more money than the State of Texas," one prosecutor told a friend.
Having money to burn gave Cullen Davis access to some of the best legal representation possible. His first choice for a lead defense counsel was Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, who was very expensive but worth every penny.
Richard Haynes was born and raised poor, the son of a San Antonio, Texas, plasterer. He worked summers in the oil fields before winning a scholarship to the University of Houston. College was interrupted twice by military service, first in the Navy, where he was decorated for heroics at Iwo Jima, then as an Army paratrooper. He graduated from Bates College of Law in 1956, and set himself up in private practice. "I think it's part of his ego he has to do everything just a little differently," said Naomi Haynes, his wife of 27 years and the mother of their four children.
Racehorse earned his nickname back in junior high school when he played football. A protégé of the legendary Percy Foreman who defended, among 1,000 other accused killers, James Earl Ray, Racehorse never shied away from the big cases. It was Foreman who encouraged Ray to plead guilty to avoid dying in Tennessee's electric chair. But Haynes was well-known in his own right. Time magazine once referred to him as one of the top six criminal lawyers in America and shortly before Cullen's trial, Haynes was asked by a reporter if he was the best criminal defense lawyer in Texas.
James Earl Ray (AP)
He barely paused before replying, "I believe I am." Then, he immodestly added, "I wonder why you restrict it to Texas."
Haynes successfully defended John Hill, a Houston plastic surgeon accused of murdering his socialite wife by letting her die after she ate allegedly poisoned French pastries that he served her.
Despite his nickname, Haynes is more of a bulldog in appearance than a racehorse, although at 50 years old during the trial of Cullen Davis, he bobbed and weaved and skittered around the courtroom with the agility of a greyhound.
Haynes would receive at least $1 million for defending Davis, but he didn't take the case for the money. He was the type of lawyer who loved a challenge and a man facing capital murder charges with three eyewitnesses was just the type of scrap Haynes looked for.
"I met the man [Davis], and I like him," Haynes told reporters as he prepared for the trial. "I like the direct look in his eye. I'd like to do what I can to assist him in his difficulties."
Cullen on Trial
Pretrial notoriety and juror misconduct in the voir dire process quickly brought an end to the case in Tarrant County. Haynes was successful in getting the trial moved to the plains of Texas, far away from the high society life of Dallas-Fort Worth. It was a major victory for the defense. In Amarillo, juries don't take kindly to women who cheat, and they have a history of looking the other way when a husband kills his wife's lover.
On the day the trial opened, as expected, Racehorse, not Cullen, was the center of attention. He strode into court in a carefully tailored suit offset by his trademark anteater-skin cowboy boots, looking every bit like a lawyer who could get away with charging a million dollars.
Burleson (left), Cullen Davis, and Richard Haynes in court (Corbis)
The prosecution's case depended wholly on motive and eyewitness testimony. It had no murder weapon and no forensic evidence linking Cullen to the murder scenes. The Tarrant County district attorney, however, felt the case was strong based on the credible identifications by Bev Bass, Bubba Gavrel and Priscilla Davis.
Racehorse's philosophy toward the defense was simple. He planned on diverting as much attention from Cullen as possible to allow for reasonable doubt to be introduced. Still, his tried-and-true approach was not limited to putting all of his eggs in one basket. Haynes explained his philosophy years later before a speech to the American Bar Association:
"Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you. Well, now this is my defense: My dog doesn't bite. And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don't believe you really got bit. And fourthI don't have a dog."
Said one Houston prosecutor who faced him in court, "He develops several scenarios simultaneously, and when it gets to final arguments, he picks the one he thinks will work."
Cullen had an alibi witness, his girlfriend, Karen Master, who claimed he was asleep in bed with her at the time the crimes were committed. However, Master had changed her story between her interview with police and the time she appeared before a grand jury. To law enforcement, Karen said she had taken a sleeping pill and was out cold until the phone call from Cullen's brother. To the grand jury, however, she reported being awake and alert during the time the killings occurred. It was a discrepancy the prosecutors intended on exploiting and one Racehorse planned on ignoring.
The truth wouldn't come out for nearly a quarter-century after Cullen's trial when a participant on the defense team had a change of heart and went public with a claim that would have brought the trial to a crashing halt. The defense had a number of secret weapons, many of them bordering on unethical, that allowed the team to anticipate the state's case and neutralize almost any prosecutorial strategy.
In 2001, Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Mike Cochran broke the story that Davis had a mole inside the prosecutor's team.
District Attorney Tim Curry (Corbis)
"Davis, while in jail, funneled thousands of dollars to a chief investigator in the district attorney's office for information about the prosecution's strategy," wrote Cochran, who covered the story for the Associated Press and later the Star-Telegram since the day Cullen was arrested. "The investigator's code name was 'Eyes' and he brings a new and even darker element of intrigue to the marathon legal drama."
For his part, the investigator denied the accusation, although Davis did not deny the payoffs were made, Cochran reported.
The middleman, who came forward with the claim, was Ray Hudson, estranged father of Karen Master, the woman who served as Cullen's alibi. He claims to have paid as much as $25,000 in cash to the prosecutor's investigator Morris Howeth.
When Hudson came forward, the statute of limitations against him and Howeth had expired.
Haynes denied knowing anything about "Eyes," although some of his defense team said they had heard of the code name, but had no interaction with the man. Hudson said he gave his reports directly to Cullen.
In addition to "Eyes," the defense team hired a Fort Worth crime scene investigator who provided insight into how the police investigated the case. For his role, Sgt. B.J. Stevens was paid $2,440 for 122 hours of work. Stevens retired from the force in April 1977, before the trial started, but records indicated he did the work for the Davis team between February and April of that year.
There were additional strange, possibly mistrial-provoking efforts on the part of the Davis team.
"There were a lot of interesting things happening," said Davis years later, calling the time "a riot."
Prosecutor Jack Strickland, who tried the case, called some of it jury tampering.
Using Davis' money, Ray Hudson commissioned an artist to attend the trial and sketch portraits of selected jurors. The $300 portraits were presented to family members during the trial, Hudson said. The claim was confirmed by some of the jurors.
At one point, prosecutors complained that Davis was talking to the family members during breaks in the trial and the judge admonished him to curb the behavior.
They would have done more than complain if they knew what one conversation was about, Hudson said.
"She was thanking him for that lovely portrait of her daughter," he said.
Trial Within a Trial
When the trial was moved to Amarillo, Tarrant County Sheriff Lon Evans called his Potter County counterpart to put in a good word for his friend Cullen Davis.
"I was permitted outside my cell every day," Cullen recalled years later. He also enjoyed a freedom seldom seen for defendants who faced a possible death penalty. He was taken once for cocktails at the home of a defense lawyer after a visit to a local chiropractor.
Another time, left alone in an office near the radio room outside the lock-up area, Cullen even answered the phone when the deputies were away.
Meanwhile, the waitress at the Executive Inn, where the jurors were sequestered, kept the defense team well informed about the conversations of the jurors, who weren't supposed to be talking about the case at all, let alone to an outsider.
"She was constantly telling me we didn't have anything to worry about," Hudson said. "She told me day after day they were all on our side."
Haynes was aggressive, but not overly so during the early prosecution witnesses. He grilled Bev Bass and Bubba Gavrel extensively, but it was clear he was holding back the big guns for the day Priscilla Davis took the stand.
When Priscilla arrived for her first day of cross-examination, she already had a pretty good idea of what to expect from Haynes. The defense had vociferously objected to much of her direct testimony in the days before and prosecutors had warned her that she, not Cullen, was going to be on trial when Haynes got a hold of her.
The cross-examination was direct and brutal. Haynes attempted to introduce a photograph of Priscilla and a former boyfriend posing in various states of undress. The boyfriend was wearing only a red, white and blue sock over his genitals. The judge ruled the photo was irrelevant.
For nearly a week, Haynes kept Priscilla on the stand, calling her "the corrupter of young people, the Machiavellian influence behind this whole thing, the lady in the la-di-dah pinafore."
He accused her of taking part in orgies, of being addicted to Percodan - which she only started taking after the shooting - and of orchestrating the whole thing to get her hands on Cullen's millions. He forced her to admit sharing her bed with a biker and a drug dealer before taking up with Stan Farr.
Haynes explored the possibility that Farr was the real target that night and that either Priscilla had wanted him dead or some unknown drug dealers had pulled the trigger. Priscilla denied that she wanted to end her relationship with Farr to take up with a teenager she had met at a pot party.
"When Haynes finished with her, the jury had practically forgotten that her own daughter had been murdered," wrote Skip Hollandsworth.
Priscilla had been on trial for 13 days and by the time it was finished Haynes had transformed her into the "biggest slut in the state," a reporter wrote criticizing Haynes' courtroom demeanor.
When her testimony was over and she left the courtroom, some of the women in the audience hissed at her.
One observer was overheard by reporters to say, "I can tell she's guilty just by looking at her," clearly forgetting who was on trial for murder.
Innocent by Reason of Wealth
It didn't take jurors long to make up their minds. The 12 citizens took two votes during four-and-a-half hours of deliberation about the longest and most expensive murder trial in Texas history. The first vote was 10-2 in favor of acquittal, the second was unanimous. In November 1977, Cullen Davis, his critics would claim, was found "not guilty by reason of wealth."
Cullen clearly expected the verdict. He had already made plans to go skiing in Aspen after the announcement and had made reservations. A victory party had been planned for weeks and after the verdict was announced, the jurors and judge were formally invited.
Afterward, a distraught Priscilla Davis talked to the media.
"I don't care if I had an affair with King Kong," she said. "The thing that tears me to pieces, that feels like a knife turning in me it hurts so bad, is that people remember that testimony but forget the terrible picture of Andrea - a little girl lying in her own blood."
One of the jurors at Cullen's booze-filled victory party, where Racehorse entertained guests with a drunken performance of "The Ballad of Cullen Davis," explained the reason for the quick acquittal: "Rich men like Cullen don't kill their wives," she said. "They hire people to do it for them."
A pie-eyed Racehorse Haynes continued to show Priscilla no mercy after the trial was over. Outside the Amarillo nightclub where the defense was celebrating, he spoke to the TV cameras, his arm around Cullen.
"She is the dregs," he said. "She is the most shameless, brazen hussy in all of humanity. She is a charlatan, a harlot and a liar. She is a snake, unworthy of belief under oath. Someone ought to put a barbed-wire fence around her house and not let her out."
Cullen Tempts Fate
T. Cullen Davis kept a low profile in the months following his acquittal. He would occasionally talk to reporters about the case, but for the most part he had little to say.
The prosecutors saw their strongest case go up in flames when their star witness had her reputation - already not one of Texas's best - flayed by Racehorse Haynes. If they couldn't convict Davis in the killing of a 12-year-old girl, they were very likely not going to bring a guilty verdict in the killing of the lover of the defendant's wife. The assault charges against Bubba and Bev Bass were even less likely to put Cullen behind bars. The prosecutors seemed resigned to the fact that Cullen was probably going to walk free forever.
Then he presented them with a second chance.
On August 20, 1978, a year to the day from the opening arguments of his murder trial, Cullen Davis was observed meeting with FBI informant David McCrory, who had approached the bureau with the astonishing allegation that Cullen had hired him to kill more than a dozen people on an enemies list. Among the targets were Priscilla, Bev, Bubba, and the judge who was overseeing the still-unresolved divorce process.
A picture shown to Davis as proof that Judge Eidson had been killed
McCrory was wearing a pair of microphones as he presented Cullen with evidence that Judge Joe Eidson had been killed. McCrory had a photograph of Eidson in a blood-soaked T-shirt with powder burns lying in a car trunk. He presented Davis with Eidson's judicial ID and driver's license.
"I got Judge Eidson dead for you," McCrory said.
"Good," Cullen replied.
Cullen handed McCrory an envelope containing $25,000 cash.
"I'll get the rest of them dead for you. You want a bunch of people dead, right?"
"All right," Davis is heard replying on the tape.
Within 45 minutes of the conversation, T. Cullen Davis was back behind bars, this time charged with solicitation to commit murder. The case was even more open-and-shut than the previous one and prosecutors quickly went to trial. Cullen stuck with Racehorse Haynes, who had been able to sew a silk purse from the last crop of sow's ears. This time, Haynes's fee would top $2 million.
McCrory had started out as an investigator for Cullen's divorce and said Cullen approached him about hiring a hit man.
"He said he was going ahead with a plan to kill [Bev]," McCrory testified. "'And you're going to help me and hire someone to do it.'"
Davis promised to pay from $25,000 to $200,000 for the killings, McCrory said.
There were several plans, McCrory testified.
"The first one was to have someone hide in the bushes at Bev Bass's house and shoot her, put her in the trunk of a car, take her off, cut her body up and leave it in an area where it would never be found," he said. "Another plan would be to shoot her with a shotgunmake it look like narcotics. They'd think it was drug-related."
David McCrory testifies at the second Cullen Davis trial
Instead of hiring a hit man, McCrory went to the FBI, which set up the sting.
A Second Chance
Haynes brought Priscilla into the trial, even though she was not a party to any of the events. He questioned FBI agents about their knowledge of Priscilla and her friends and tried to paint a picture that she had framed Davis.
In closing arguments, Haynes claimed Davis was merely playing along with McCrory and was under the impression that he, not McCrory, was working for the FBI.
"We all know that human beings communicate with each other in so many ways other than what they say," Haynes said in a theatrical performance before the jury. "By a raise of the eyebrows, by a shrug of the shoulders, by a non-verbal gesture. These are not captured on a voice recording."
The prosecution pointed out that there were tapes, that Cullen had reportedly given McCrory a gun and that he had definitely given him $25,000 cash.
But Cullen managed to escape a second time. This time, jurors were unable to reach a verdict (the vote was a stubborn 8-4 in favor of acquittal) and the judge was forced to declare a mistrial.
Prosecutors quickly made plans to try the case again, knowing well that retrials tend to favor the defense, because the prosecution has already shown its hand. But the law was confident that with so much overwhelming evidence, a conviction was likely. Again, they presented a compelling case that Cullen had sought to kill his enemies.
This time it looked like T. Cullen Davis was going to pay for his alleged crimes. Everyone thought so. Even the defense team was working on the presumption that Cullen was going down and was busy planning the punishment phase defense and appeal.
After a short deliberative period, the jury announced that it was finished. The prosecution was so confident of a conviction that it asked the judge to delay the announcement so that Judge Joe Eidson could be present in the courtroom.
The jury's announcement shocked everyone connected with the case, except, if you ask him, T. Cullen Davis.
They found him not guilty.
The jurors voted for acquittal because "they couldn't find a way to convince themselves that a man of Cullen's wealth would lower himself to having a judge killed."
Priscilla filed a wrongful death suit against Cullen, but again a jury was unable to decide his guilt. The case was dismissed when the jury deadlocked.
Davis announced shortly after his second acquittal that he was turning his life over to Jesus. With the help of a Dallas evangelist he smashed more than a million dollars worth of jade, ivory and gold objects because they honored what he said were "false gods."
He still had a significant cash fortune and the Mockingbird Lane mansion, but things were about to change for Cullen.
Karen Davis (left) with husband Cullen (AP/Wide World)
By the mid-1980s, Cullen was flat broke. Kendavis Industries had taken a dive during the recession of the early 1980s and Cullen had blown some $40 million in bad real estate deals. In 1986, he filed for personal bankruptcy, listing assets of $600,000 and debts of more than $230 million.
The former Forbes 400 member took a job on his brother's payroll for $25,000 a year and Karen Davis, his alibi-turned-wife, returned to school teaching to make ends meet.
"The Lord has sustained me through this," he said. "I am not worried about the outcome. He can make it go, and He can make it come back."
Priscilla Davis, before she passed away from cancer
Priscilla also hit on hard times and when she died in 2001 from breast cancer, she was living in a one-bedroom apartment far from the limelight. She was 59 years old. She had never remarried and as a persona non grata on the celebrity circuit, she lived a relatively quiet, if not despondent, life. Priscilla was mourned by many who came to know her during the trials, most of whom remembered her as a much grander lady than she had been portrayed at the time. Friends also said she never fully recovered her sense of self-worth that was dashed in the first trial. Her surviving daughter, Dee, told the press that even in the painful last stages of cancer, Priscilla refused to take pain medication because of the claims made by Haynes.
T. Cullen Davis, 2003 (AP/Wide World)
Now in his late 60s, T. Cullen Davis could still be tried for the death of Stan Farr and the assaults on Bev Bass and Bubba Gavrel. From time-to-time a newspaper columnist will recall the trial, still one of the most expensive in Texas history, and call on justice to be done.
To date no prosecutor has stepped forward to take on T. Cullen Davis, money or no money.
People on all sides of the issue have often speculated about whether the outcome would have been different had Cullen not been one of the richest men in Texas. Cullen himself admits that it might.
"I was able to pay for what I needed to be found not guilty," he said in 2000. "If I had not had the money to hire the people I hired to investigate what went on and everything that we used and needed, I might have been sitting in prison right now."