Det var helt Texas!
For almost half a century, the people of Norway have been using the word texas written mostly in lower case, and more often than not with an exclamation point, when they want to describe something crazy, very exciting or out of control.
Det var helt Texas! That is totally Texas!
The Lone Star State should probably not rejoice at the idea of its name being substituted for crazy. But who am I kidding? Even if it is not meant as a compliment, some Texans are probably tickled pink at the idea of being perceived as over the top, brash and crazy. They even call their own town of Clifton ”The Norwegian Capital of Texas.”
The second most populous state in America does not do anything halfway.
If their justice system is any indication of how crazy Texas can be, Norwegians probably read a page of the Cullen Davis story before officially integrating the term in their slang book. He was the richest man tried for murder in the US and his legal saga was equally rich in outrageous characters and events.
That is totally Texas!
Cullen Davis was born in Fort Worth, Texas on September 22, 1933. The middle of three sons of oilman Kenneth W. Davis, aka Stinky, who had become outrageously wealthy by acquiring oil-field supply companies at bargain prices and assembling them under an umbrella corporation called Kendavis Industries International.
After graduating from university, Cullen had joined the family business and in 1968, after his father passing, he took control of it with his two brothers. Under their management, this little family endeavor went from $300 million to $1.03 billion in sales in just ten years. Contrary to his frugal father, Cullen loved a life of luxury and had an eye for the ladies. He loved nothing more than to shower them with expensive furs, jewelry and trips in his private jet.
His brother Bill was not happy with Cullen’s overspending and ended up suing him because of the personal debts he had cumulated amounting to $16 million. Cullen had used Kendavis’ assets as collateral to obtain personal loans. The lawsuit ended up with Cullen and his older brother Ken buying out Bill’s interest in the business. The two brothers went their separate ways for decades after this vicious tug of war.
Cullen had married his girlfriend Sandra Masters in 1962, and had soon grown tired of the marital bed. He had an appetite for other types of women and was not going to be denied. His wife accused him of hitting her in private and of slapping her in public. He wanted out of this marriage and when he met sexy Priscilla Wilborn, wild horses could not have kept him away from her.
Priscilla was a sexy blonde who came from the wrong side of the tracks and had been married twice. She already had 3 children when she met Cullen and was married to a successful car dealer named Jack Wilborn. Priscilla’s ambitious nature made her yearn for the flashiest things in life and Cullen could offer them to her and then some. She fell hard for his money and some even say Cullen was the love of her life.
Priscilla Lee Childers
Priscilla Lee Childers was born on July 30, 1941 in Dublin, Erath County, Texas. She was the daughter of Richard Clifford Childers who worked as a geologist in the oil industry and as a rodeo rider. She never knew him because as she said ‘’He forgot to come home and send a check.’’ She was raised by her mom Audie Lee Smith who was the main influence in her life and never had any money to her name.
She grew up in suburban Houston where she graduated from High School. At 16, she married Jasper Baker and gave birth to her first daughter, Dee. The union was brief because according to Priscilla, he was a big ole cheater and she soon moved on with her 6-month-old baby girl in tow. She eventually married Jack Wilborn and moved with him to Fort Worth. The Wilborns had a son named Jackie and a daughter named Andrea.
Even after losing Priscilla to Cullen Davis, Jack kept saying that his former wife was ‘’generous to a fault, very open and totally unpretentious. ‘’ ‘’if she was your friend, you couldn’t have a better friend. ‘’
It was not too difficult for Cullen to woo her away from Jack or should we say purchase himself a trophy wife. Priscilla in some interviews has denied having an affair with Cullen while they were married. Instead, she said they were friends and became a couple after they both divorced. Whatever the truth may be, they married in 1968, and by some morbid circumstance, it fell on the same day his father Stinky and the music died.
Their lives soon became a real soap opera. Priscilla was as flamboyant as her husband was reserved and she was often described as a “human fireworks show.” They were the talk and toast of the town and at first, were getting along like two love-struck teenagers.
Priscilla was wearing couture, furs and jewelry galore. Her favorite was a necklace with the words ‘’Ritch Bitch’’ spelled in diamonds. She decorated their skybox at Texas stadium in pink and would think nothing of showing up in hot pants at the Country Club. The other rich bitches that were born into money were not too enthused by the fact that their men drooled over Cullen’s new lady Marmalade.
There were rumors of sex, orgies and wild parties. At first, Cullen enjoyed the attention Priscilla attracted, but he soon became bothered by it and wildly insecure. As time went on, he became increasingly mean and controlling and resented the fact that she was like a showgirl on display everywhere they went.
Priscilla was not the only trophy Cullen Davis acquired during their marriage. At the time, he was dreaming of a palatial home that would reflect his importance and his unique taste. He commissioned the construction of a $3,8 million (some say $6 million) Fort Worth home that resembled more a dreary clinic than a family home and took over 3 years to build. He loved it and filled it with art, marble, trinkets and Priscilla. It was his domain and he could finally feel like Texas royalty.
Nothing was too over the top for the Davis family. Giant paintings of Cullen and Priscilla were the main attractions of this Barnum Bailey Big Top if you do not count the pedestal statue in the kitchen of a well-endowed woman that was labeled ‘’Think Big’’.
This mismatched couple unavoidably headed towards a bitter separation and the blame game was played on both sides of the golden fence. They accused each other of infidelity and Priscilla said Cullen often beat and kicked her, even as she curled in a ball to protect herself. He allegedly broke her nose twice and her collarbone on another occasion.
Her daughter Dee accused Cullen of hitting her so badly that there was blood in her urine. She called him cruel and violent and alleged that he killed the family kitten after punching her in the face; stories not dissimilar to the ones his first wife told, minus the feline.
Priscilla filed for divorce in 1974 and it promised to be a long and bitter one. At first, domestic court Judge Joe Edson ordered Cullen to move out of the mansion and to pay Priscilla $3,500 a month in living expenses. Then, on August 2, 1976, he increased Cullen’s payments to $5,000 a month and ordered him to give Priscilla an additional $27,000 to pay bills she had accumulated and $25,000 more to cover legal expenses. It was the last straw
Murders at the Davis Mansion
On the night Cullen was ordered to give his ex-wife more money, one of the most shocking crimes in Fort Worth history took place at the tacky mansion where Priscilla resided with her kids and partied hard with her new beau and a rag tag crowd.
It has to be said that Cullen was furious that Priscilla ended up living in the mansion with her new man while he had to vacate it. It was his dream home and this ungrateful bimbo should have known better than to mess with a man’s castle.
That night, Priscilla had gone out with her boyfriend Stan Farr, and her 12-year-old daughter Andrea had stayed behind on her own. When they came back home, Priscilla was surprised to see that their state of the art security system was not on. She saw a bloody palm print on the wall, and as she was going to investigate, Cullen Davis jumped in front of her wearing black clothing, a long black wig and his hands wrapped in a plastic bag. He shot her in the chest after saying hello very calmly. She yelled for Stan to back away because she could hear him come down the stairs to her rescue.
Stan who was a former 6-foot-10 football star at TCU, tried to kick the door in Cullen’s face after being shot in the neck, but was shot 5 more times and died after trying to stop his attacker. During the commotion, Priscilla tried to run away but Cullen grabbed her. She remembered trying to reason with him and saying ‘’I love you. I have never loved anybody else. Please let’s talk. Please sit down and talk to me…please.’’ He let her go for a moment and she ran to the neighbor while holding her bleeding chest.
In the meantime, Beverly Bass who was a friend of her daughter Dee showed up with her friend Gus Gavrel because she was supposed to spend the night over at the mansion. The killer shot and injured Gus after being spotted. Beverly yelled at Gus that it was Mr. Davis and he tried to tell Cullen not to shoot. Bass and Priscilla were able to get away and ask neighbors to call for help.
The most dramatic part of this shooting is the fact that 12-year-old Andrea was later found dead in the basement; the first victim of this horrific saga. She was made to kneel and shot execution style. Priscilla and Gus survived the shooting, but Gus was paralyzed and Priscilla had a long recovery ahead of her. The bullet had missed a main artery by half an inch.
Even if she had superficially moved on with Stan and Cullen was dating Karen Master and appeared happy, a tempest had been brewing beneath the surface. Priscilla expected Cullen to take back his mansion and she would walk away with some money, but she had bad vibes and said she kind of felt that it was not going to end well.
She even hired security guards for a while and a private investigator about problems with the security system.
Priscilla would later reminisce that her union with Davis started with the death of his father and ended with the death of her daughter. Morbidly cosmic.
Priscilla, Gus and Bass identified Cullen who was arrested the morning after and hauled to jail without handcuffs. The D.A.’s office suggested they set bail at $80,000 which was approved by judge W. W. Matthews who astonished most by stating ‘’This man will probably never hurt anybody again.’’ ‘’The police told me he was quite drunk, and when he gets drunk he really gets mad. He was just drunk.’’
Cullen was released and went on with his life as if nothing had happened.
But the cops tailed him because he was an obvious flight risk. It made the prosecutors nervous to think that he could board his private plane at any time.
After 17 days of freedom, he had a new bond hearing or as I like to call it, they finally came to their senses. He ended up staying in jail without bond to await trial. Despite his appeals to the US Supreme Court, he remained locked up. Small victory that gave the impression that justice would be swift and he would have to pay the piper. After all, it appeared to be an open and shut case.
But that is Texas and Cullen Davis meant business.
If Cullen had only shot Priscilla, there would have been less outrage because she was perceived as a gold digger and they were in the middle of a rocky divorce. But the cruel murder of little Andrea who was sweet as pie is what made it unforgivable in every way.
Some speculated that because Andrea had been in Houston for a month and had just returned, maybe Cullen did not know she would be there. Or because she had the same silhouette as her mother, he had mistaken her for Priscilla.
His friends were not willing to concede that he could kill the girl because it made him more than a cold heart snake. But considering that Andrea was a brunette and was shot through the heart while kneeling after being dragged into the basement, the mistaken identity scenario was blown to smithereens.
Cullen did not waste any time hiring the best attorney of the land. He already had Pat Burleson on his payroll and added Richard ‘’Racehorse’’ Haynes to his legal team. He was one of the most famous criminal attorneys in the US.
Haynes went to work courting reporters and spreading the gospel according to Racehorse manure. He declared the murders drug-related and said that the mansion had become a hot bed for the traffic of ‘society narcotics.’
Cullen was only charged with capital murder for the death of Andrea and never had to answer for the other crimes.
His girlfriend Karen Master resembled Priscilla, but was outwardly more refined. She was a wealthy divorcee with two children; her son had special needs because of an accident.
She eventually told police that Cullen was in bed with her the night of the murders and her word carried significantly more weight than the one of Trashy Barbie.
Cullen’s lady love was basically another Ritch Bitch, but without the tacky necklace. This new and improved model was willing to overlook the murder of a teen girl to keep her man and status, but she is the one who supposedly had more credibility. That is totally Texas!
It came out many years later that Karen’s dad, Ray Hudson, had served as the middle man to bribe Morris Howeth, the prosecutor’s investigator, in exchange for information on the prosecution’s strategy. Howeth received as much as $25,000 in cash.
No direct evidence was found to connect Cullen to the attacks and the weapon was never retrieved either. There were no fingerprints, footprints, bloody clothes, wig or plastic bags in the horizon.
But you would think that 3 witnesses would overcome this hurdle any time, any day.
The prosecution had their man and the trial relied on the testimony of eye witnesses. After being shot, Priscilla had told everyone she came in contact with that Cullen was the shooter. She wanted to make sure they knew who assaulted her in case she died of her injury. There was no possibility for error considering the circumstances.
Bass did not know Cullen but was told by Beverly that it was Mr. Davis so it was a pretty solid form of identification.
‘’Racehorse’’ Hayne’s strategy was to prosecute every witness that took the stand. It was his specialty and he excelled at it. He was more a storyteller than a great legal mind and he did not shy away from shedding tears if need be.
He once shocked himself with a cattle prod in open court to show the jury that, while it “hurts like hell, it’s not deadly.” On one other occasion, he threatened to drive a nail through his hand to prove to the jury that it wasn’t really that painful. Some say he is not that great, and it is the jury that is gullible. But whatever he did, it worked. When Priscilla showed up dressed for court and wearing a cross instead of her Rich Bitch necklace, Haynes made sure she would not win the heart of the jury.
They never knew that this same cross was always in her purse and that in spite of what the defense asserted, she was a grieving mother who had also lost her companion. She was popping Percodan for pain following the shooting and did not make a great witness. But in this race, she was never supposed to come out as the winner anyway.
She was portrayed as a drunk and a pill-popping queen. A big spender who had used Cullen’s wealth for her lavish lifestyle in a house he had paid for.
She had all kinds of guests on the premises and Haynes floated the notion of a drug crime. It did not make any sense, but by the time this grandstanding master was finished with them, the jurors had forgotten about Andrea.
Cullen remained calm and collected in the courtroom so he might have appeared more like a victim than a killer compared to his ex who was presented as a man eater.
Instead of fessing up to her pill addiction, Priscilla tried to appear white as snow. It was the wrong move. Not that it should have mattered, but it did.
Jack Strickland was the chief prosecutor in the case and he knew that trying to get Cullen Davis was not going to be a cakewalk. The man had a fan club. Women were in awe of Cullen and were showing up to have him sign autographs. Davis was allowed to eat gourmet food during lunch breaks and was always surrounded by dutiful Karen and some other attractive women. Cullenmania was rampant and palpable.
Even if Priscilla’s version of events remained rock solid, the defense always came up with dramatic and ridiculous stories to distract the jury and rally public opinion.
Marylyn Schwartz from the Dallas Morning News said it best ‘’ Priscilla was done in. They turned her into the biggest slut in the state. Her child was murdered, she almost died, but Racehorse Haynes did a brilliant job of keeping those facts out of the courtroom.’’
All the witnesses went through Haynes’ grinder and came out as dead meat. And as the trial went on, Cullen’s popularity and power were affirmed. He really was Texas Royalty.
In closing, Haynes stated that the entire case rested on the testimony of Priscilla. If she lied about using drugs and other matters, she framed Cullen to get his money.
On November 17, 1977, after four months of tribulations, the trial of Cullen Davis ended. It took the jury four and a half hours to deliberate and bring a verdict of not guilty.
I can only imagine how stunned Priscilla must have been.
The night of his acquittal, Cullen celebrated in style at the most popular place in town, the Rhett Butler. The booze was flowing and the scene was hopping with well-wishers, including the media, groupies, the trial judge, members of the jury and bailiffs.
Some of the jurors stated that Cullen was not necessarily innocent, but they felt there was reasonable doubt. I have the feeling that whatever doubt they hung their hat on had the sweet smell of money and power. A lady juror stated that rich people do not kill; instead they hire a hit man. Words Cullen seemingly took to heart.
The Second Trial
After losing the case, you would think the state might have jumped at the opportunity to try Cullen for the murder of Stan or the attempted murder of Gus, but they decided not to proceed.
Instead, probably convinced by now of his invincibility, Cullen decided to beat Lady Justice at her own game one more time.
There was still a divorce to derail and Judge Edson had dared ruling in Priscilla’s favor several times. Cullen meant business and losing was not a viable option for him so he decided to eliminate the problem like he did so well the first time around.
He approached a former business associate called David McCrory and enlisted him to kill the judge. Priscilla and her daughter were also on the honey do list. The problem is that McCrory told the FBI about the plan and they taped Cullen and had a video of the money exchange.
The judge had cooperated fully by laying in the trunk of a car with ketchup on his back to prove to Cullen that the job was done. After seeing the photo, Cullen paid up and thought his problem was solved. Let’s boogie on down tonight.
Cullen was back in the slammer charged with murder for hire. You would think that this was going to be the clincher, but not in Texas.
He begged Haynes to saddle up for another race but this time it would really cost him. Racehorse had taken $250,000 the first time around, but would not settle for less than two million dollars for this bigger bump in the road. I do not know if it was ego or to save his reputation, but he took the case and prepared to slander, attack and distort facts to try to get Davis released again.
In October 1979, the trial was under way and Cullen was busy signing autographs and being the President of his own fan club. He had almost acquired a taste for it. In the meantime, the prosecutors were getting death threats and hate mail. Cullen’s fans standing outside were booing and spitting on the prosecutor.
As usual, the prosecutor thought the case was rock solid and in fact, it was. But it was Cullen Davis and money makes the world go around so he took the stand and came up with the fictitious story that he had been contacted by the FBI and told to play along with David because he was the bad guy they were trying to catch.
The jurors, instead of falling on the floor laughing, listened intently to this nonsensical story coming directly from the bag of tricks of our old friend Racehorse. Were they really going to buy that this cat thought he was in cahoots with the FBI?
The FBI denied ever contacting Cullen. It was a farce and once again, the defense pretended that it was Priscilla’s fault. She was conspiring against Cullen to get her piece of the pie.
You would think that the jurors would have realized the first time around that no woman is going to have her daughter murdered and risk dying of a bullet through the heart for a divorce settlement she would not be around to enjoy. And this time, this now fragile woman was supposed to have dragged Cullen in an FBI trap.
During the trial, Cullen celebrated his birthday and invited the Sheriff of Fort Worth who came bearing gifts. He gave his pal his old prison uniform and a hacksaw. How funny. He also gave him a key to the county jail.
It took two and half days this time for the jury to come up with a decision. It was deadlocked at 8 to 4 against him when a mistrial was declared. On November 9, 1979, Cullen walked out of the courtroom a free man and left in his black limousine.
Cullen Davis meant business and he won. He went on with his life with his fan club intact.
They never retried him.
Cullen got lucky again after Judge Edson who had presided over his divorce retired after his second acquittal. One cannot help wonder if he was scared to be murdered if he did not give in to Davis.
Not surprisingly enough, the new Judge ruled in his favor. He got his house back as well as all its content.
Priscilla received a settlement of $3.5 million instead of the $100 million her lawyers thought she was entitled to. She gave up.
Of course, there were lawsuits from the victims, but it was easily manageable. He reached an out of court settlement with Gus Gavrel who sued him after his wounds left him partially paralyzed. In exchange, he would not testify against Cullen at trial. Priscilla had filed a lawsuit and obtained a settlement of $5 million but never received a penny of it.
Some of the settlements are still pending. Cullen is on the hot seat (ok he is never on the hot seat) for not paying a 12-year-old judgment stemming from the case. The children of the late Stan Farr had sued Davis seeking $250,000 and they calculate that they are now owed more than $1.5 to $2 million with interest. Good luck with that.
You can click here to read about Jon Farr’s son visit with Cullen Davis.
Cullen filed for personal bankruptcy in 1986 with debts of over $230 million. The recession of the early 1980s had reduced his fortune considerably.
Considering that his wife Karen had money and that after finding religion, he was able to give $1 million in jade, ivory and gold to help Dallas evangelist James Robinson who in turn, convinced him they were idols and had to be destroyed in obedience to Deuteronomy 7:25:6, it means he never lived in poverty and could have easily paid the settlements. Once again, someone was sleeping at the switch.
To imagine Cullen destroying art objects to pieces with a hammer and dumping them in the lake gives an interesting insight into his vision of the world.
As a hobby, Cullen peddled a cream called Skin Pro-Tec II to protect the hands of mechanics and outdoor workers, but his main interest became religion.
Strongly influenced by James Robinson, he got busy unlearning the theory of evolution and focusing on morality. He frequented the First Baptist Church of Euless. Some joke that he did not become a Catholic because it requires a confession.
When questioned about the sincerity of his crusade and if it was just for show, Cullen answered “I’m in good shape.” “No legal problems to speak of. I’m not falling down drunk. I’m not on dope. I have no insurmountable problems, and I have money. Many people who find God have one or more of these problems. So what would it benefit me to accept the Lord in my life?” No comment.
He is now a ‘family man’ and adopted Karen’s two children. He also had two children of his own and his wife still stands by her man.
The Davis mansion was sold and eventually became a steakhouse, a Mexican restaurant and a Bible Church.
Recently, Ken Davis, who is still the Chairman of the Great Western Drilling Company, decided to participate in politics by starting a SuperPac Vote2ReduceDebt and he invited his brother Cullen in the mix. It collapsed and ended up being a disaster. Click here to read about it
Priscilla died of cancer in February 2001 at the age of 59. She survived on the divorce settlement for a few years, but the money quickly evaporated.
Generous to a fault, she apparently spent most of it helping friends and family and raising her granddaughter after her daughter Dee who fought a drug addiction, ended up doing stints in jail.
Her son who also suffered from a drug addiction was found dead on a Fort Worth bench years later. Her daughter Dee is now doing well and remembers her mother fondly.
Cullen is still preaching the gospel according to Davis somewhere-somehow.
Det var helt Texas!