Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ricky and Dena

"Factor X"

Richard Davis
Richard Davis

On May 25, 2005, Richard Dean Davis stood squinting against the springtime sun after his release from a state prison in Bonne Terre, Mo.

At age 40, Ricky Davis was at a crossroads after a wasted life.

He had been brought up in a broken home in the Kansas City area, and by age 13, he was a chronic delinquent. He spent most of his teen years in reform school or juvenile detention, and he soon graduated to adult lock-ups.

In 1987, just months out of prison for stealing, Davis was convicted of raping a woman. He claimed the sex was consensual — never mind the knife he held to her throat.

A jury saw it differently and sent him away for 25 years.

Davis claimed to have found religion during the 17 years and 11 months he spent in prison. His release gave him a chance to prove it.

During his first nine months of freedom, he apparently did everything required of him under parole. He went to work, stayed out of bars, attended substance abuse and sex offender counseling sessions, reported to his parole officer, and registered new addresses when he moved.

But authorities say Davis also began nurturing an obsession with sexual domination, sadism and asphyxiation, polite descriptions that gild his sickening compulsion: to strangle a woman while having sex with her.

Davis visited strangulation fetish websites on the Internet and began collecting videos that fed his sexual obsession. But his ultimate fantasy was to star in his own snuff-film show.

Sometime last winter, Davis took up with Dena Riley. Methamphetamine had lured the Missouri woman away from her husband, children and respectability.

Dena Riley
Dena Riley

It was a match made in hell.

Davis and Riley now stand accused of acting out the ex-con's fantasy by murdering two women during videotaped sex sessions. To boot, they then allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted Davis' 5-year-old niece before they were captured.

Many wonder how yet another registered sex offender—after years of punishment and therapy — could relapse so completely.

The depravity of his alleged acts recalls the BTK Killer's infamous "factor x" theory — that certain undefined but irrepressible urges make sexual killers different from the rest of us.

Dennis Rader
Dennis Rader

In a 1978 letter to a Wichita television station, the BTK Killer—later identified as Dennis Rader — tried to explain it:

"You don't understand these things because your (sic) not under the influence of factor x. The same thing that made Son of Sam, Jack The Ripper, Havery (sic) Glatman, Boston Strangler, Dr. H.H. Holmes, Panty Hose Strangler of Florida, Hillside Strangler, Ted of The West Coast and many more infamous characters kill. It seems senseless but we cannot help it. There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away."

Whatever "factor x" is, it seems pretty certain that Ricky Davis has it.

Dr. Kathryn Seifert
Dr. Kathryn Seifert

"People don't just wake up one day and say, 'I'm going to be a serial rapist and a killer,'" Dr. Kathryn Seifert, a psychotherapist and forensic psychologist based in Salisbury, Md., told the Crime Library. "Something leads up to it."

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