When Money Talks -- Justice Walks. . . Far, Far Away: The Cullen Davis/Priscilla Davis Murder Case In Texas
What was. . .
My state -- Texas -- is not only famous for cattle, horses, beautiful women and wealthy men but has made national headlines many times when all those entities clash. Such was the case in the 1970’s when wealthy oil man Cullen Davis (the wealthiest man ever to stand trial for murder) was accused of murdering a 12-year-old child (his step-daughter, Andrea), basketball hero Stan Farr and shooting but not killing his wife, Priscilla Davis and a visitor at the Davis mansion, Gus “Bubba” Gavrel. As fate would have it (and fate will have it) this author was acquainted with some of the folks involved in this tale of big money, big hair, big drug use, big diamonds, big phoney boobs and big lies. A mini-series for television was done on the case and called "Texas Justice” which was a ludicrous title at best.
In August, 1976 I was on the road with my brother, an entertainer, and we were booked at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, NV for a 10-day stint opening for Willie Nelson – therefore I was not in Texas when this horrible crime took place. Imagine my shock when upon returning to Austin, Texas, where I lived at the time, I received a telephone call from a friend on the very night I returned from Las Vegas telling me my friend, Stan Farr, was dead and what had transpired. I was devastated.
I had met Stan Farr through his sister a few years previous to this heinous crime and he and I had dated for a brief period, become friends and we kept in touch by telephone, seeing each other occasionally from time-to-time thereafter. I had talked to Stan via telephone only a few days before I left on the Las Vegas trip – and that would prove to be a catalyst after all this horror went down.
I was close friends with Stan’s older sister and had met him through my association with her. Stan had been a TCU basketball hero, 6’7” tall, affable, handsome, funny and just an all-around good guy. He had an easy going nature, enjoyed telling funny stories – often at his own expense – and had an intense desire to make a big mark in this old world. Stan had visions of being very famous, living an upscale and exciting life and didn’t have much trouble doing that as he’d always been a magnet for women. He was also married and had two children. During the time I knew him he always spoke lovingly of his kids and just said he and his wife were separated but not divorced. That was none of my business and I never asked any questions about that part of his life.
Stan always had big ideas and plans as to how to make money, produce music shows, start businesses and eventually he did just that. He became partners in an upscale, Ft. Worth bar which was very popular among the socially elite. I have no idea how Stan met Cullen Davis’ wife, Priscilla, but meet her he did and thus began an association that was to prove deadly. Priscilla was in the midst of a nasty divorce from Cullen Davis, one of the richest men in Texas, and a judge had awarded her custody of the famous Davis Mansion in Ft. Worth – 17,000 square feet of pure luxury with the outward appearance of a mausoleum – and Cullen’s pride and joy.
The mansion sat on 150 acres, had 20 rooms, was valued at six million dollars and was located in the 4000 block of Mockingbird Lane on Ft. Worth's trendy southwest side. It wasn’t long before Stan moved in with Priscilla and her daughter, Andrea – age 12 years. I don’t know if Priscilla’s daughter, Dee, lived at the mansion at that time, too, or if she just came and went and lived elsewhere.
Horror and more horror. . .
It was common knowledge the mansion had one of the most sophisticated security systems known at that time and was akin to some kind of fortress. I never visited there but my brother and many of his friends in the music business had attended lavish parties there on numerous occasions. Those parties were notoriously known for copious amounts of booze and drugs. Priscilla and Stan were particularly careful to keep the security system on and working as Cullen Davis was not a happy man – was, in fact, a very angry man – and a man of great wealth and power not only in Texas but anywhere he chose to be. Priscilla was known to flaunt her wealth, was always flashy, vivacious, enjoyed the spotlight and was known for her tiny mini-skirts and minuscule tops which barely covered her ample breasts (through implants which Cullen had insisted on). She always wore a spectacular necklace that clearly had the words “Rich Bitch” in gold set with diamonds.
Stan and Priscilla had gone out on the night this crime occurred and upon returning to the house discovered the security system had been disarmed. One had to be among “the inner circle” to even know how to disarm the complicated system and so this alarmed Priscilla and she went down the stairs to the basement to investigate. Stan went upstairs to the master suite to check there. As Priscilla went down the stairs she saw a bloody handprint on the wall and upon reaching the basement found her 12-year-old daughter, Andrea dead – shot in the head and having bled to death. (It was later proven by the evidence that the child had been ushered to the basement by the killer, forced to get down on her knees and was then shot in the back of the head). Horrified and most probably in shock, Priscilla turned and ran back to the stairs and started up while screaming for Stan. Stan, hearing her horrified screams started back down the stairs from the master suite. It was at that point, Priscilla later testified, Cullen Davis stepped out from a stairwell on the landing with a black wig on and plastic bags covering his hands, which were holding a gun, and shot her. Upon hearing Stan coming down the stairs Cullen then stepped in front of the stairs with the gun still in his hand to shoot Stan and Stan kicked the door to the stairs shut in Cullen’s face.
Cullen fired several shots through the door, one of them hitting Stan in the neck and killing him. Stan was only 30-years-old. Priscilla testified she watched in horror as Stan died and then ran out the back door clutching her wounded chest at the same time friends Beverly Bass and Gus “Bubba” Gavrel were approaching the back door. Beverly was supposed to spend the night with Priscilla’s elder daughter, Dee and was returning from a date. The story here has been related two ways – that (1) Priscilla was being drug out of the house by Cullen when Bass and Gavrel came up on the patio and (2) that Priscilla ran out of the house, made it to the road and ran screaming to the neighbor’s with Cullen, who’d followed her out the back door still shooting. In any event Cullen turned the gun on and hit Gavrel, paralyzing him for life but not killing him. Beverly got away with Priscilla. Later, at Cullen Davis’ trial for killing Priscilla’s daughter Andrea, three people identified Cullen Davis as the shooter that night – Priscilla Davis, Gus Gavrel and Beverly Bass (all who knew Cullen very well and had for some time) – but to no avail.
A legal farce, once more. . .
Cullen Davis, charged with murder, employed Racehorse Haynes, one of Texas’ most famous, clever and expensive lawyers, and the man who had represented Dr. John Hill in Houston, Texas, for the murder of his socialite wife, Joan Robinson Hill. The trial was held in West Texas as Haynes said his client couldn’t get a fair trial where the crime happened due to having such a high profile. The whole trial turned out to be a farce of the legal system. Cullen Davis was treated as a celebrity, given privileges known to very few jail inmates and seemed to bask in that limelight. In contrast, Priscilla Davis was treated like dirt – ridiculed, treated as though she was on trial and the one guilty of the crime instead of the victim. She was demonized by the press for her flashy good looks and her lifestyle although she dressed very modestly during the entire trial. Racehorse Haynes did an exceptional job of portraying Priscilla as a gold digger, a woman of no morals whatsoever, a bad mother and someone who got what she deserved. Cullen Davis’ adoring public – consisting of mostly women – ate it all up and supported him to the max.
Somewhere along the way, Cullen had met and was involved in a relationship with another woman, and she dutifully appeared daily as a one-woman support system for Cullen. In a nutshell, Cullen walked. He literally got away with the murder of a 12-year-old child because he was rich enough to make that happen. Cullen married his new love interest and supposedly became a dedicated Christian complete with church membership and all. Yes, T. Cullen Davis was tried and found innocent of the murder of Andrea Wilborn. Seems the jury said they just didn’t believe a man as rich as Cullen Davis would kill people – but instead – would hire it done so they acquitted him. A bit of rather “far-out” reasoning there but true, nonetheless.
Later, Cullen allegedly had a plot to kill Judge Joe Eidson (the judge hearing the divorce case between Cullen and Priscilla whom Cullen hated vehemently), Beverly Bass, and Priscilla. The evidence was that an FBI agent went undercover as a hit man to Davis, and took photos of the Judge 'dead' in a car trunk. The agent gave Davis some of the judge's personal items, and told him the judge was dead, to which Davis replied “good.” In fact, he gave an envelope full of cash to the FBI agent, and told him to kill several more people including Priscilla and others. This was all caught on video and audiotape.
Cullen Davis again went to trial and came out unscathed from all those charges – but he went stone cold broke in the process – this after he was acquitted of murdering a child, attempting to have a judge, his ex-wife and several others killed – and there was proof positive he did that. The State of Texas could still try Cullen Davis for the murder of Stan Farr but has to date made no effort to do so. Seems when money talks – justice walks – away. . . far away!
What might have been. . .
During the “fact gathering” portion of the Cullen Davis saga – before the trial commenced in West Texas for the murder of Andrea – Cullen’s lawyer, Racehorse Haynes had a team of folks out gathering everything they could about everybody they could in order to defend Cullen. At the time I was still living in Austin and lived in a high-rise, condo sort of apartment complex on the top floor where I also maintained my brother’s offices. I was heading home one evening about “dark-thirty” when I noticed an automobile staying nearly right on my bumper. I took a few off-course turns to see if I was imagining things and I was not. When I turned my follower turned. I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t scare me because it did. I finally decided to head for my apartment, jump out of my car, race up the stairs and lock and bolt my door before my follower could get out of his car and follow me – if indeed that was his intention. I did that and immediately upon locking the door took a long-nosed .38 out of the entryway chest and holding it in my hand attempted to see out the little hole in the door where one supposedly could see who was standing there.
I couldn’t see a thing because the guy (whom I assumed had been following me) was standing very close to the door – blocking my view – and was knocking on my door. I did not open the door but inquired as to who was knocking. The answer I got scared me even worse. The guy claimed to be a private detective working for Cullen Davis’ lawyer, Racehorse Haynes, and he wanted to talk to me about Stan Farr. Finally getting my wits about me – and getting madder by the minute – I told the guy on the other side of the door I had nothing to tell him but that if he wanted to come into my apartment he would come in with me holding a gun on him, sit down and wait until I called a friend to join us. I assured him he would be held at gunpoint the whole time and that if he made one move that alarmed me I would shoot him. As frightened as I was the guy was lucky I didn’t shoot him accidentally – but I didn’t.
I got a good grip on the gun, unlocked the door and a little short, squat, sneaky looking guy stepped into my apartment. I got behind him, still holding the gun, ushered him into my living room and demanded to know what this was all about. Seems Racehorse Haynes staff had gotten Stan Farr’s telephone records and found my telephone number reflected there – not once but several times – and not knowing what the relationship was between Stan and me they wanted to ask me some questions. I kept the gun on the guy and called my friend Russ to come to my apartment as quickly as he could. Russ lived in the same complex that I did, was a crime writer for Playboy Magazine, and was a private detective himself – and I knew he would be armed, too.
Within minutes Russ was at my door and was wearing his old leather bomber jacket – which assured me he was armed as leather conceals weapons very adequately and is popular among those who carry guns. He did not show a weapon but questioned my visitor as I still held a gun on the guy – who by this time was getting very nervous. Russ demanded to see the guy’s identification as to whether or not he was who he said he was and apparently when the guy presented his private detective license, his driver’s license and only God knows what else -- Russ was “sorta” satisfied. Russ patted the guy down to see if he was armed – he wasn’t – and told me to put my gun down. I did as instructed but wasn’t very happy about it. I did agree to answer some questions as long as Russ remained in the room with us – and Russ assured me he wouldn’t leave. The PI took out a small tape recorder and proceeded to record our conversation – which Russ said was fine – I wasn’t that sure it was fine at all.
This guy was determined to get me to present Stan in the worst light possible – he said I knew Stan was a cocaine dealer, had been involved in some shady deals, etc., etc. I didn’t know any of those things and in fact knew them all to be untrue. I told him Stan was my friend, his sister was my friend and I had known the family for years – and none of what he was saying was true. I also assured him I’d never even seen Stan use cocaine much less sell it. I wasn’t involved in Stan’s day-to-day life since he’d been living with Priscilla and gone into the bar business. After some very leading – and slanted questions – the guy decided I wasn’t going to do anything for his team, and prepared to leave. Before he left I got my two cents in. I told him I didn’t know one damned thing about Stan’s murder, Cullen Davis or anyone connected with that whole mess and if he ever followed me again or attempted to gain entry to my home I was going to shoot him first and ask questions later -- and that was a given.
I’ll never forget this scrawny, private detective ignoring me completely and addressing his last question to Russ: “Is she always this way?” Russ replied, without cracking a smile, “Oh, you oughta see her when she’s mad!” The guy just looked puzzled, never looked me in the eye again and Russ ushered him to the door – he left. When we were alone I expected a big lecture from Russ but it wasn’t forthcoming and I inquired on his thoughts on the matter.
“Sis, you were right on target on this one. This is the nastiest, most dangerous murder case in the history of Texas crime and it’s only going to get worse. Take it to the bank, Cullen Davis isn’t going to be convicted – there’s too much money changing hands for that to happen and too many vermin-type people involved. He’s guilty as hell but he’ll never stand trial for Stan Farr’s murder or shooting Priscilla and Gavrel. He’ll get off free as a bird for killing that child and life will go on as if this never happened. Watch your back, carry that gun with you at all times from now on and call me if anything else happens. By association you’re treading in dangerous waters – wanna go get something to eat?”
We did go get something to eat that night and I had a stiff drink – my nerves were shattered to the max. Russ didn’t laugh at me but was sympathetic and a true friend. I carried that gun religiously until the blue was nearly worn off of it but was never approached again by anyone in regard to this crime. Russ, is now dead -- like many of the players in this horrible crime -- and I miss him. He died a natural death some years later from a heart attack.
Dee, Priscilla’s daughter, last time I heard, is now a drug and alcohol abuse counselor. Gavrel is still paralyzed. Priscilla, born July 30, 1941 in Dublin, Texas as Priscilla Childers, (educated in Houston, Texas) died of breast cancer at the age of 59 in February, 2001. She was buried in Hillcrest Memorial Cemetery. Her daughter, Dee, said at the time of her mother’s death her only possessions were photographs of family and friends – her mother was close to destitute. Much is still written about this case – some accurate and some not. Just as Russ prophesied way back then – Cullen Davis never stood trial for Stan’s death or for shooting Priscilla and Gavrel. Guess the judicial system – or whatever powers that be – figure that if one can’t convict a man for killing a 12-year-old child in cold blood what chance does the system have of getting a conviction for killing one adult and shooting two others? That’s a terrifically sad statement as pertains to our judicial system but it is as it is. As far as I know Cullen Davis is still alive and living somewhere in East Texas.
After Cullen’s acquittal, Stan’s sister came to Austin to stay with me a few days and just get away from the whole thing. She was still grief stricken and more or less in a state of shock not only over Stan’s murder (they’d been extremely close) but over the acquittal of Cullen Davis. We were having a glass of wine one night at my house and she told me something that made my blood run cold. Seems Andrea, Priscilla Davis’ daughter that was murdered, and my guest’s daughter were about the same age and very close friends. Tears came to Stan’s sister’s eyes when she said “You know, Andrea called our house earlier the night this all happened and invited my daughter to come spend the night with her as she’d be alone in the house ‘cause everyone was going out. We already had plans so my daughter refused. If she’d gone to the mansion that night, at Andrea’s invitation, she’d probably be dead now, too!” I had not heard that bit of information and sat there a moment, stunned and unsure how to even comment after that revelation.
Sometimes when fate steps in there are no answers – things just are as they are. It could well be that fate wasn’t even present and had no bearing at all on what prevented my friend’s daughter from being in the mansion that night. I, personally, attribute it to a monumental blessing from God.
Angela T. Blair ©2012 – All Rights Reserved