Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Killing of Polly Klaas

'White Slavery Rumours'

In Who Killed Polly?, a book that is otherwise worthwhile, Frank Spiering makes an irresponsible suggestion.  He alleges that Polly was not killed but is still alive and being held in "white slavery" (properly "sexual slavery" since the people, mostly females, may be of any ethnic background).

Joe Klaas, Polly's grandfather
Joe Klaas, Polly's grandfather

Spiering spins this ludicrous tale from a statement by Joe Klaas, wisps of unexplained evidence, and a great deal of fancy.  A couple of weeks after the abduction, Polly's paternal grandfather said, "She was the right age.  She could be easily sold.  There is no question in my mind that she was going to be sold."  

Witnesses reported seeing a fellow other than Davis near the Klaas house near the time of the crime and a gray Honda parked in front of the home.  From these tiny bits, the author hypothesizes that a conspiracy was hatched to kidnap a fair-skinned child to pleasure men in Saudi Arabia, Asia, or Latin America.  The conspirators hired Davis to kidnap Polly, then spirited her away.  Realizing so much fuss was being made over the missing youngster, they then planted another body with clothing from the Klaas household.  They also counted on Davis' memory being so poor that he would not reveal his financiers.  Or perhaps they knew he would abide by the convict's code of silence even if it meant his own death.

The scenario would make a good fictional mystery.  But Polly Klaas' death is hard, cold reality, not fiction.  Fingerprints, forensic anthropology, and dental records definitively established that Polly Klass was the corpse they found on the embankment.

Polly Klaas is dead.

Her murderer remains alive as of this writing.  Richard Allen Davis is on California's Death Row.  Like anyone there for a crime against a child, he is often shunned by the other condemned men.  However, he has been able to garner a few friends and pen pals from those fascinated by the ugliest among us.  Erik Petersen, a lawyer for Davis' sister Debbie, says the child-murderer is amused that women write to him professing their love.  "He jokes about having women write him letters from across America wanting to marry him," Petersen commented.  "He laughs about it."

Davis also has a Web site, courtesy of the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty.  One can view Davis' art and woodwork. The works are not for sale; and even if they were, the site asserts that Davis would not get any of the proceeds. The condemned man has a letter up, addressed "Dear Viewer" in which he discusses himself and his feelings but not his crime.  In that letter, Davis writes, "I don't have no complaints about my due . . . I have lived a life inside these walls . . .. The most often thought that I do have, is wondering if, for someone like myself, can one ever fall back in love with life again.  For myself, I feel that I do not have that right even [to] the time that one spends considering such a selfish thought."

The California Defenders Association honored the lawyers who fought unsuccessfully to spare Davis' life  in 1997.  They were named the state's "Defenders of the Year" for their "valiant effort [s] to represent an accused in an atmosphere of public outrage."  In accepting the award, Chandler commented that "people would call me a 'scumbag' for defending [Davis] but if we threw away his constitutional protection, where would [we] be for the next person?  Normal law-abiding citizens can guarantee that they will not commit a crime — but they cannot guarantee that they won't be accused of committing one.  The defense counsel plays a role in protecting us all."

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