FORT WORTH, Texas -- Forget O.J., or the Charles Manson case. The real trial of the century took place in Texas.
Fort Worth’s Cullen Davis was once one of the richest men in America in one of the most high-profile marriages in Texas.
But in one night, he went from wealthy oil baron to accused murderer.
In 1968, Cullen, at the pinnacle of Fort Worth’s social set, married Priscilla. She was pretentious, a penchant for bending the rules of polite society.
With her, came three children, Andrea and Jack from her second marriage; and Dee from her first marriage.
But by 1976, Cullen and Priscilla were living under separate roofs -- with other people.
On Aug. 2, the judge in their divorce case dealt Cullen a financial setback.
“Well, I don’t remember the details,” Cullen said. “Only the bottom line, he increased my wife’s monthly payments somewhat.”
News reports at that time said that the payments went up from $3,500 to $5,000 a month. Plus, more than $50,000 for her legal expenses and other bills.
That same night, a man wearing a wig and donning all black clothing, entered Priscilla’s mansion. The man shot and killed her boyfriend Stan Farr and her daughter Andrea, along with wounding Priscilla and a family friend.
Dee, who was at a friend’s house that night, found a still-distraught Priscilla in the emergency room, whispering, “Dee, Cullen shot me,” Dee said. She went on to tell her mother, “OK. I understand. I understand. They’ll get him.”
But Cullen insisted he’d been at the movies that night, alone. He said, he saw “Bad News Bears” and ended the night at his girlfriend Karen Master's home--not the mansion.
Cullen Davis: Wasn’t me.
John McCaa: You never had a wig?
McCaa: Never had any involvement, any kind of plot planned?
Cullen: No. No.
McCaa: You’re absolutely, 100 percent not guilty of this.
Cullen: That’s absolutely, 100 percent right.
Prosecutors, however, believed that they had their man.
Publicity moved the trial for the murder of Andrea to Amarillo, Texas.
Cullen’s lead attorney, Houston’s Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, went after Priscilla. He made allegations of drug use and wild sex parties.
“They were so consumed with my mother’s appearance, her bad girl image…,” Dee said. “And hey, guess what? It wasn’t about her. It was about a 12-year-old child that was murdered.”
But the jury found Cullen not guilty. He was elated.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels because I've been in there 15 months fighting this thing,” he said.
Haynes was also happy with the verdict at the time.
“Looks like I'm out of a job I guess. I got to go to work,” he told reporters at the time. “I guess I'll start looking for a job... I don’t know where I'll start looking but I'll look somewhere.”
He wouldn’t be out of work for long. A year later, Haynes was back in court, defending Cullen again, after an undercover film emerged, allegedly showing Cullen in short sleeves, secretly paying a man $25,000 for a photograph of the murdered judge in his divorce case. He promised to pay more to have Priscilla and others killed.
Cullen claimed he was there helping the FBI after Priscilla's friend approached him with the plot. Unbeknownst to Cullen, it was all staged. The judge posed for the photo.
To this day, despite the videotape, despite the $25,000 he gave the man in the video, Cullen insisted that he was set up. But he has forgotten some of the specifics about what occurred at the time.
“I don’t remember. That was – that’s why I said, there was something about the – the $25,000, but I don’t – I don’t remember how that came into play” he said.
At the trial in Houston, they conceded Cullen was on the videotape, but, said he was assisting investigators. He said the jury believed him.
“The jury listened to those tapes real closely, and they said, 'Wait a minute, Cullen’s telling the truth, here,'” he said.
Some of the jury did. It deadlocked with 8 to 4 to convict. The judge declared a mistrial. But for Cullen, the ruling was clear: he was and is innocent, he said.
A born-again Christian, forgiveness has taken on new meaning for Cullen. In fact, he said, he has forgiven all of the people who accused him of murder.
Some of them have forgiven him as well. But not Dee Davis.
“You have to acknowledge and admit you’re wrong to ask for that forgiveness,” she said. “And so far, I haven’t heard him claim any kind of responsibility for anything.”
But Cullen insisted that it's not about guilt, but submission to being born again. Dee said she understands that, however, while Cullen is at peace, questions linger for her.
“Who killed my sister then?,” she asked. “If Cullen Davis didn’t do it, then who did it?”
For years, a report has circulated that the night of the mansion murders, “Bad News Bears” was not playing at the theater where Cullen insisted he watched it.
If true, it was never brought up in any of the criminal trials.
Cullen's wife Karen passed away a few weeks ago.
Priscilla died of cancer in 2001.
To this day, Cullen insists he’s innocent.
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