Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

T. Cullen Davis: The Best Justice Money Can Buy

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.

Priscilla Davis
Priscilla Davis
   
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 Years Day 1968, Priscillas 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
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 fathers 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. Theyve 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 couldnt 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 Worths 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 Priscillas 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 womans wig, entered the mansion on Mockingbird Lane intent on murder.

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