"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!"
WARNING: This story contains extremely graphic material, including descriptions of rape, torture, and murder, which some readers may find disturbing. Discretion is highly advised.
Earlier this month, the Colorado State Senate approved SB20-100, a bill which, if passed, would abolish the death penalty in the state of Colorado. A similar bill, proposed last, year, also passed committee but failed to gain traction in the senate.
However, this year, the bill's proponents say they believe they have the votes to pass the bill, and the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, has said he will sign it if it reaches his desk.
As most people know, I am a supporter of the death penalty, and I cannot help but express my firm and ardent opposition to this bill. The death penalty must remain a legal punishment for certain heinous and depraved murderers, and I urge Colorado's legislature to defeat this bill and keep capital punishment on the books.
Colorado's last execution was in 1997, and it was for a particularly gruesome crime. In fact, this crime may very well be one of the most disturbing cases I have ever studied. It was a brutal killing involving the kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder of a young mother whose only crime in life was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And, although more than 20 years have passed since the perpetrator of this crime was executed, it serves as a window into the true depths of human depravity - a depravity that can only be appropriately punished with the ultimate sentence.
Nobody could have known that, in 1986, a 34-year-old resident of Byers named Virginia May would lose her life in one of the most heinous crimes in Colorado history - a crime that even today still resonates with the residents of this small community.
Born to Rod and Alice MacLennan, Virginia Louise MacLennan - nicknamed "Ginny" by her friends and family - was a beloved figure and longtime resident of Byers, and she had many close friends who thought the world of her. She had a reputation for always being there for someone when they most needed support. No matter how bad someone was feeling, they'd always brighten up in Ginny's presence.
When Ginny was 16, her younger brother, Scott, was horribly burned in an accident - a tragedy that placed a great deal of strain on the family. Despite her young age, Ginny did her best to take on the role of caring for her three other siblings while her mother and father stood by Scott's bedside. Rod and Alice later credited their daughter for keeping the MacLennan family together throughout their most difficult hardships.
After graduating from Fort Lewis College with an associate's degree in business, Ginny MacLennan went to work for a cattle company in Denver. There, she met Gary May, a business associate working for a Denver consulting firm, and the two fell in love. After Gary and Ginny married in 1976, Rod MacLennan bought the couple a ranch about 25 miles north of Byers, and the newlyweds settled down to start their new lives together. Within three years the couple had produced two children, and Ginny and Gary seemed destined for a long, happy life together.
But, in 1986, their new life would come to a horrifying, gruesome end at the hands of two vile predators.
The Sadist and the ShrewIn the spring of 1986, the small town of Byers gained two new residents, a mysterious couple who had moved from Wichita, Kansas.
The little town welcomed the newcomers, but the couple - 42-year-old Gary Lee Davis and his wife, 34-year-old Rebecca "Becky" Fincham - did not seem too interested in joining the community. Aside from showing up a few times at church and one time at a ball game, the couple mostly kept to themselves.
Stories floated through the town, specifically around Gary Davis. There were rumors that Gary had spent time in prison back in his home state of Kansas, and that he had a lot of trouble with people - specifically women.
These rumors only scratched the surface of Gary Davis' dark past. Had they known the full truth of who Gary Davis was, the residents of Byers might have forseen the horror that was to befall their little town.
|Gary Lee Davis|
42-year-old Gary Lee Davis was, in the simplest terms, destined for evil. Born in Wichita, Kansas, (under the birth name Gary Gehrer) to an alcoholic father and an abusive stepmother, Davis became estranged from his family at a young age. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and in 1961 he enlisted in the Marine Corps - a career choice that ultimately went nowhere.
But Gary Davis' most frightening trait was his extremely violent behavior, and it was women who often bore the brunt of his abuse. During the 1960s and 1970s, it is estimated that Davis raped more than 15 women - many of them teenage girls, and he took sadistic pleasure in doing so.
"I'd just lay there with a smirk on my face yelling at them and watching them cry and beg me not to hurt them", Davis later recalled. "I had to touch. I needed some pussy by force. To hear the girl or woman scream and beg as I did. Every person I raped I enjoyed. If they didn't cry or beg it would take the excitement out of it".
After leaving the Marines, Davis married a woman named Tonya Ann Tatem. The relationship didn't last long, and the couple divorced after spending barely three years together.
In 1974, Davis married a 17-year-old girl named Leona Coates, with whom he ultimately had three children, but this relationship was also doomed from the start. Coates later reported that Davis was mentally and physically abusive. He would often get drunk and beat her, and on at least one occasion he threatened her with a gun. Davis also tried numerous times to force Coates into a threesome with him and another woman, and became furious when she refused.
Becoming bored with Coates, Davis turned his predatory eye to other women unfortunate enough to cross his path. In 1979, in Baca County, Colorado, Davis lured a young convenience store clerk outside, claiming he needed help with the ice machine. When the clerk came to help, Davis brandished a knife and dragged her into an alley, where he attempted to rape her. After a violent struggle, the clerk managed to escape and phone police.
Davis served less than a year in prison for that crime, but, after his release, his deviant behavior continued. Just months after getting out of prison, Davis set his sights on the 15-year-old daughter of one of his wife's friends. One night, he cornered the girl and raped her while holding a knife to her throat.
This was the final straw for Leona Coates. In 1982, she divorced Davis and won custody of their three children. Davis was later convicted of rape and sentenced to eight years in prison, of which he only served four.
While in prison, Davis was described as a "model inmate" by correctional staff. He successfully went through an alcoholism treatment program and earned special privileges. He also spent a lot of time writing and putting personal ads in newspapers.
Soon, Davis began corresponding with one woman who responded to his classified ads - Rebecca Fincham. Fincham was an overweight, recently-divorced mother of two daughters, who had left her alcoholic husband after he began an affair with another woman. Like Davis, Fincham also had a criminal record, having served three years of probation for a child exploitation charge. Due to this conviction, Fincham was ordered to send her children out of state to live with her parents, and she grew increasingly lonely.
Davis and Fincham exchanged explicit letters for several months, discussing their most graphic sexual desires. Davis found in Fincham the perfect woman - a woman who shared his disturbing fantasies and showed him the undying attention and loyalty that he craved.
In 1984, the pair married, with a priest performing the ceremony over the prison phone. The following year, Davis was released from prison, and he and Fincham moved to an apartment in Aurora, Colorado, where the pair found work renting out rooms to new residents. However, after Davis was accused of scamming his tenants, the pair moved again, this time to Byers, Colorado, where Davis found work as a farmhand on a ranch next door to the May family.
And it was here that the paths of Ginny May and Gary Davis would cross.
The WarningsSince their marriage two years earlier, the sex life between Gary Davis and Rebecca Fincham had withered, and Davis was once again setting his sights on new targets. And, while he was working on the ranch in Byers, other women had the misfortune of falling under his predatory gaze.
Several women later reported that Gary Davis had tried to lure them into his car, with no avail. But one woman caught Davis' eye, and he became so obsessed with her that he planned to get her whether or not she consented.
That woman, tragically, was Virginia May.
Gary Davis first met Ginny May at church. As soon as he saw her, Davis became obsessed with Ginny. When he would work on the fence next to the MacLennan ranch, Davis would often make obscene comments towards Ginny about how he wanted to have sex with her and her sister-in-law.
On one occasion, Davis even urinated towards the ranch while crowing "Come on, Virginia, baby! I'm here! Come to me!"
Ginny mostly ignored Davis' public displays of lewdness, but Davis did not relent. In fact, Ginny's repudiation of Davis' advances only served to further arouse him.
Davis concocted an elaborate plan with his wife to kidnap Ginny May from her home, take her to an isolated area, and have a "threesome" with the young woman. Fincham, of course, went along with Davis' plan without question.
The Deadly PlotLate on the afternoon of July 21, 1986, Ginny May's sister-in-law, Sue MacLennan, received a strange phone call. It was from Davis' wife, Rebecca Fincham.
"Is your husband home?", Fincham asked.
"No, he's out", Sue responded, perplexed. "Oh, that's OK", Fincham continued. "I just have some used clothes to drop off. Thought your kids might want 'em."
A few minutes later, a car drove up to Sue's home on the MacLennan ranch. It was Fincham and Davis. Fincham got out and began walking to Sue's driveway, leaving her husband in the car, but she wasn't carrying the clothes she said she wanted to bring. Upon seeing a male ranch hand standing nearby, Fincham began to panic."I thought your husband wasn't home!", she told Sue. Fincham stayed only long enough to have some iced tea, and then she and Davis quickly drove away, leaving Sue MacLennan bewildered and confused.
Sue MacLennan didn't know it, but she had just had an extremely close brush with death. Gary Davis and Rebecca Fincham weren't out to give away clothes. The only things they had brought with them were a rope and a .22-caliber rifle. Davis and Fincham had intended to kidnap Sue and rape her, and the presence of the male ranch hand was the only thing that had saved her life.
|Sue MacLennan, Ginny May's sister-in-law, had been the original target of Gary Davis and Rebecca Fincham.|
After the presence of a male ranchhand had scared the couple off, Davis and Fincham instead decided to abduct Ginny May.
Davis and Fincham decided to change plans. Instead of Sue MacLennan, they would target Ginny May, who lived on a different part of the ranch.
At about 6:00 PM, Ginny received a call from Rebecca Fincham. Like she had done with Sue, Fincham asked if Ginny's husband was home; Ginny said he was not.
Fincham said that she had some used clothing to give to Ginny's two children, and told her they would come by to drop them off.
And, with that, the fate of Ginny May was sealed.
Kidnapping in ByersAt about 6:30 PM on July 21, 1986, Gary Davis and Rebecca Fincham drove up to the May family home on the MacLennan ranch. Outside, Ginny May was playing with her four-year-old daughter, Krista, and seven-year-old son, Brandon. Upon seeing Davis and Fincham pull up to her driveway, she walked over to greet them.
|The May home on the MacLennan family ranch|
Fincham asked Ginny May if she could borrow some wire stretchers from a tool shed on the property, so Ginny went into the tool shed, with Fincham and Davis following closely behind.
At that point, with the May children watching the entire spectacle, Davis punched Ginny in the face, knocking the young woman to the ground.
Fincham noticed that 4-year-old Krista May was watching. "Get inside! Get inside!", she said as she shooed Krista into the house, while Davis dragged Ginny May to his car.
Davis forced Ginny into the backseat, where he tied her up. "Becky! Get in the car!", he screamed to his wife. Fincham ran to the car and she and Davis quickly drove off in a hurry with their captive in tow, leaving Krista and Brandon May petrified with fear and confusion.
For Ginny May, the nightmare had only just begun.
Acts of the DevilNobody knows exactly what happened between Gary Davis, Rebecca Fincham, and Ginny May after the kidnapping. Davis and Fincham each blamed the other for what happened.
According to a confession Davis later made to police, he climbed into the backseat of the car while Fincham drove into the Colorado desert. There, he forced Ginny May to remove all of her clothing, and sexually assaulted the young mother while holding her down.
Eventually, Fincham stopped the car in an isolated area of the desert in neighboring Adams County, Colorado. There, Davis looped a rope around Ginny's neck and led the nude woman from the car, using the rope as a leash. He forced Ginny May to lie down on the ground and, holding a knife to her throat, he raped the young woman as she pleaded for mercy. Once Davis was finished, Fincham wanted to have a turn, so Davis then forced Ginny to perform oral sex on his wife, threatening to kill her if she didn't comply.
After this was done, Davis and Fincham decided that Ginny May would have to die. Ginny pleaded with her captors to spare her life. She begged Davis not to kill her, promising him she wouldn't tell anyone.
But Davis tired of Ginny May's pleas for mercy. He bludgeoned the young woman across the head with the stock of his .22-caliber rifle, shattering her skull and causing internal hemorrhaging. The blow stunned Ginny, but didn't kill her or even knock her unconscious. As she lay on the ground, moaning in agony, Davis grabbed the rope tied around Ginny's neck and both he and Fincham began pulling on it as hard as they could, attempting to strangle their victim.
But even this failed to kill Ginny. The young woman, battered and bleeding, continued to plead for mercy between hysterical sobs, chokes, and gasps for air. She even offered the couple $1000 if they let her go. "Please", she begged. "Just give me my life".
But Davis wasn't moved. "No", he laughed at her. "It's too late for that, baby!" He grabbed his .22-caliber rifle again as Ginny continued to plead for mercy.
Davis stood over his victim. "Be quiet and I'll make it quick!", Davis mocked as he raised his rifle and aimed it at Ginny May's head. Ginny managed to raise her hands one last time, in one final defensive gesture, before Davis opened fire. He fired nine .22-caliber hollow-point bullets into Ginny's head and one bullet into her neck, killing the young mother instantly.
For a few seconds, Davis stood over the corpse of his victim, checking for any signs of life.
Fincham stood next to Davis. "Do you think she's dead?", she asked. "I'll make sure", replied Davis. He reloaded his rifle and fired four more shots into Ginny's chest and pelvis. "She's as good as dead now", he quipped.
For a few minutes, Davis and Fincham stood around the corpse of their victim, drinking beer. Finally, Davis and Fincham covered Ginny's body with a bale of hay, got inside their car, and drove back home, where Davis hoped to drink some more.
"Becky Took Her"At about 8:00 PM that night, Gary May returned to his home from a marketing strategy meeting in another part of the ranch. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary for him, and he expected to soon have dinner with Ginny and their children.
But when Gary May returned home, all he found was his two children, terrified and shaken, and no sign of his wife. This was unusual. Even though Ginny had friends who lived nearby, it wasn't like her to leave the house unannounced, especially without her children.
Gary looked at 4-year-old Krista, who was hiding inside, her eyes wide with fear. "Where's Mommy?", he asked.
"She's not here.", Krista responded. "Becky took her".
Something in the tone of Krista's voice told Gary that she was serious. This wasn't just the product of a four-year-old's imagination. Something was very wrong.
Racing back outside, Gary keyed the radio in his truck. "Do you guys know where Ginny is?", he asked. "No, what is it?", Ginny's father, Rod MacLennan responded.
"I don't know why, but she's gone.", Gary replied, growing increasingly panicked. He and MacLennan searched the entire ranch but found no trace of Ginny.
At about 9:00 PM, Gary May called the police and told them that his wife was missing. It took two hours for a deputy to show up to the ranch, and, once he arrived, he wasn't of much help. Gary would later recall that the deputy seemed unconcerned with Ginny's safety. "This happens all the time", the deputy told Gary May. "These housewives get bored with their lives and take off with another guy."
Gary May was furious. He demanded for the deputy to listen to him and begin a search. Begrudgingly, the officer decided to talk to Ginny's children. Brandon May told police that his mother had been "taken away" by a man and a woman, driving an older-model Buick. His description of the couple seemed to match that of Gary Davis and Rebecca Fincham - further corroborating Krista May's account.
Due to the circumstantial evidence implicating Davis, police drove to his house on the neighboring ranch. Nobody was home, so officers began a routine patrol of the surrounding area.
One officer noticed car lights in the distance, so he drove over to investigate. The deputy caught up with the car and turned on his police lights, signaling the car to pull over. He identified the occupants of the car as Gary Davis and Rebecca Fincham.
"What are you folks doing out here?", the deputy asked the couple. "Oh, we were just going fishing", Fincham responded. "Is everything alright?"
"Ginny May just went missing from the ranch down the road", the deputy continued, aware that one of the May children had implicated the couple in Ginny's disappearance. "I don't suppose you know where she is?"
Fincham adamantly denied knowing anything about Ginny May's disappearance. "Oh no, I haven't seen her for a while", she lied. "I hope they find her soon".
The deputy was suspicious. It was far too late at night to go fishing, and there weren't any lakes or bodies of water nearby. But the officer had no reason to detain the couple, and the accusations of a young child weren't enough to make an arrest. He had no choice but to let the couple go, but, as he did so, the officer warned the May family to keep a close eye on Davis and Fincham.
Something about the couple was off.
The following morning, Rod MacLennan decided to go over to the Davis home to talk to the couple personally. He confronted Fincham and Davis about Krista's accusations and demanded an explanation.
Davis didn't say much, leaving most of the talking to his wife. Fincham told MacLennan the same story she'd told the deputy; that she and Davis had gone fishing that night and hadn't seen anything unusual. Fincham stood in the yard of her home, crying and smoking a cigarette, and she even expressed hope that Ginny would soon be found.
"We want to do everything we can to help find your daughter", Fincham told MacLennan. "I know how you feel. I was raped once".
But the performance didn't fool Rod MacLennan. He made eye contact with Gary Davis. "Gary", he seethed, "I swear, if you have done anything to my daughter, I will fucking kill you!"
Davis silently sneered at MacLennan and walked away. He didn't say a word, and he didn't have to. MacLennan already knew the truth.
Just a few hours later, officers arrived at the Davis home, and both Rebecca Fincham and Gary Davis were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping Ginny May. Upon searching the couple's residence, police found numerous disturbing items, such as sex toys, pornographic magazines, lewd letters, and even some pictures of nude children.
At the sheriff's substation in Strasburg, Colorado, Davis had a brief chat with his wife.
"We're done for", Davis told Fincham. "The ball game's over, babe."
Fincham still believed she and Davis could talk their way out of this. "Don't tell 'em shit!", she hissed. "We'll get a lawyer!".
But Davis was correct. For him and Fincham, the game was now up.
The following day, on July 23, 1986, Davis met up with the public defender and decided to come clean. He told his attorney that he was willing to make a deal. If the prosecution allowed him to plead guilty and promised not to seek the death penalty against him, Davis would lead police to Virginia May.
The District Attorney agreed to the deal, and Davis pointed out on a map where he and Fincham had left their victim. At the location, in the middle of a wheat field, police found the nude, bullet-riddled body of 33-year-old Virginia May.
The search for the missing mother had come to a tragic conclusion. Gary May had the excruciating task of informing his children that their mother would never come home.
Upon hearing the news, 7-year-old Brandon May collapsed in grief and cried himself to sleep. But four-year-old Krista May was too young to understand what had happened. "Where's mommy?", she kept asking. "Why can't mommy come home?"
On July 24th, 1986, Gary Lee Davis and Rebecca Fincham were both charged with kidnapping, rape, conspiracy, first-degree murder, and felony murder for the killing of Virginia May. Despite Davis' earlier confession, both he and Fincham pleaded not guilty to all charges. They were ordered to be held without bail pending trial.
GriefOn July 30th, 1986, Virginia May was laid to rest in Byers Cemetery, in a ceremony at a local church which was attended by dozens of friends, family, and even strangers who wanted to show their respects. Among the attendants were Ginny's widower, Gary May, and their two young children.
|Gary May holds 4-year-old Krista during Ginny's funeral|
The crime had utterly devastated the little town of Byers, leaving a cloud of sadness and disbelief hanging in the atmosphere. And, out of the crushing grief at the loss of Ginny, there was a rising anger towards those who took her life.
|Holding hands with her father and aunt, 4-year-old Krista May bids farewell to her mother|
As he gave a tearful eulogy in Ginny's memory, the pastor of the congregation, Rev. Andrew Gottschalk, could not hold back his rage and fury at Gary Davis and Rebecca Fincham.
"If true justice could be served", the Reverend fumed, "these scum would be forced to spend the rest of their lives in a pit filled with rats, snakes, rodents, and skunks!".
"Throughout this time, I've had conflicts with reason and emotion, love and frontier justice, and the gallows and my Christian faith", he continued. "My anger and my sorrow", he finished, "have won out".
|Pallbearers move Ginny May's casket to her final resting place.|
Before Ginny May was lowered into her grave, Gary May laid his hands on his wife's coffin, said a short prayer, and left a single pink rose on the casket's lid.
|Virginia May's grave in Byers Cemetery|
The town of Byers had grieved over the loss of Virginia May. But now, their grief turned to anger. And the town was now united in seeing to it that the killers of their beloved Ginny would be brought to justice.
The TrialGary Davis and Rebecca Fincham were each tried separately for the murder of Virginia May, and both pleaded not guilty to all charges against them. Both Davis and Fincham blamed the other for firing the fatal shots, and each claimed that they had tried to save Ginny May from being killed.
Although Davis' earlier plea deal had been intended to save him from execution, he had made a critical mistake. When he had arranged his earlier deal with the District Attorney, Davis had hinted that Ginny May was still alive. By not revealing that Ginny was, in fact, dead, Davis had broken the terms of his agreement.
In February, 1987, after finding that Davis had known that Ginny May was dead at the time he made his agreement, a judge ruled the plea deal invalid and allowed the prosecution to seek a death sentence against Davis and Fincham.
The District Attorney decided to seek the death penalty against Davis, but, because he felt that securing a death sentence against a woman would be next to impossible, he decided not to seek the death penalty against Rebecca Fincham. It was a decision he would later come to regret.
Fincham was the first to go on trial, in May of 1987. Testifying on her own behalf, Fincham maintained her innocence, and although she confessed that she was present when Ginny May was killed, she claimed that she only participated because she was afraid of Davis.
Fincham's attorneys attempted to paint their client as an abused housewife, who was manipulated by her husband into becoming his accomplice in crime. They claimed that Fincham had tried to stand up for Ginny May when Davis was going to kill her. She had screamed for him to stop, they said, and had pleaded with Davis to let Ginny go free.
But the jury didn't buy Fincham's story. On June 20th, 1987, they convicted Rebecca Fincham of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Ginny May. Fincham's sentencing was set for August of 1987, and she faced a maximum sentence of life in prison. After the trial, several of the jurors who found Fincham guilty said that they would have sentenced her to death if they could.
While Fincham awaited sentencing, her husband, Gary Davis, went on trial in Mesa County Court for the same crime, with the prosecution seeking the death penalty against him.
Davis was assigned public defender Craig Truman as his counsel, and he faced off against hardened prosecutor Bob Grant. At the time, Colorado had not carried out an execution since 1967, but Grant was determined to see that Davis died in the gas chamber for his crime.
|State attorney Bob Grant was the prosecutor who led the case against Gary Lee Davis.|
Defense attorney Truman never disputed the fact that his client was guilty of murder. Gary Davis, he admitted, was guilty of the crime he was accused of. Knowing that Davis would be convicted of murder, Truman decided to focus his efforts on saving his client from the gas chamber, and tried to shift most of the blame to Fincham. The murder of Ginny May, Truman claimed, was Fincham's idea, and if Fincham's part in the crime wasn't worthy of a death sentence, then Davis' life should also be spared.
Truman even called forth a psychologist who testified that the gunshot wounds to Ginny May's breast and torso were indicative of being inflicted by an "enraged woman" seeking to "disfigure her rival" - an obvious attempt to pin the killing on Fincham.
The prosecution countered by playing a tape-recorded confession to the jury, in which Davis described the murder of Ginny May in gruesome detail - detail, the prosecutor said, that only the killer could know.
"We drove over to what's known as Ewing place, at which time I got Ginny out of the car", Davis said in his confession. "I had a small rope and I tied it around her neck loosely."
He described how Ginny May had pleaded for her life, and how he had shot her. "I couldn't leave, because she would've went right home and everything.", Davis decribed. "I went back 15 feet away from the body, pointed the gun at her and turned my head, and just pulled the trigger".
But Truman found that the biggest obstacle to his defense was, in fact, his own client. Despite his attorney's best efforts, it was Davis himself who would ultimately seal the case against him.
On July 19th, 1987, Davis testified on the stand, and his testimony directly contradicted the assertions of his own defense attorney. Davis testified that he and he alone had shot Ginny May, and attempted to absolve his wife of any blame. And when prosecutor Bob Grant cross-examined Davis on the stand, Davis completely folded, answering "Yes, sir" to every single question posed to him.
Truman was frustrated beyond belief at Davis' shenanigans. But, despite his case being sabotaged by his own client, Truman still attempted to save Davis from the gas chamber.
In his closing arguments to the jury, Truman made clear his resentment towards his client. "There are times in this case when I hate Gary Davis. Gary Davis has lied to me. In a lot of respects, he has set me up for failure, and the crime he committed is reprehensible", he said. "Nevertheless," he concluded, "in the face of all of this, I ask you to consider the moral justification of imposing the death penalty in this case [...] I ask you to spare Gary Davis' life."
The verdict came after only three hours of deliberation. On July 21, 1987 - one year to the day after the murder of Virginia May - the jury found Gary Lee Davis guilty of of kidnapping, rape, and first-degree murder.
The following day, on July 22, Davis appeared in court again for his sentencing hearing. This time, Davis pleaded with the jury to spare his life.
"Perhaps death will be the quick and easy way out for me", Davis told the jury. "But I think my life might still have purpose." Davis tried to elaborate. "If I do get life, maybe I could help somebody else. I could talk them out of crime and keep them from going back to the penitentiary", he said.
"I know what I have done is hard for anyone to forgive and probably never will", continued Davis. "It was a sick, stupid crime. The words 'I'm sorry' seem very small, but I am saying I am sorry to the family and many friends of Ginny May".
But the jury was not moved by Davis' apology. After deliberating for three hours, the jury returned with a unanimous verdict for the death penalty.
In accordance with the jury's recommendation, Judge Harlan R. Bockman sentenced Gary Lee Davis to death in the gas chamber for the murder of Virginia May, and imposed four life sentences on the charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, and rape.
|Gary Davis listens as he is sentenced to death for the murder of Virginia May.|
It was the first time in nearly a century that a Mesa County jury had imposed a death sentence.
The verdict came as a welcome relief to the family of Ginny May. After Davis was sentenced to death, Rod MacLennan praised the decision as a "victory for the justice system".
The following month, on August 13, 1987, Rebecca Fincham appeared before Judge Bockman to be sentenced for her role in the murder. For her crimes, Fincham was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 48 years, plus an additional 54 years for the kidnapping and rape charges.
Before she could become eligible for parole, Rebecca Fincham's obesity caught up with her, and, in 2008, she died in prison from a heart attack at the age of 57.
Later, prosecutor Bob Grant would say that his only regret in the case was that he wasn't able to see Fincham join her husband on death row.
Death RowFor ten years, Gary Lee Davis remained on death row at Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado. While in prison, Davis claimed to become a "born-again" Christian, and he began to reunite with estranged members of his family.
In 1990, the Colorado Supreme Court denied Davis' petition for a new trial, and set Gary Davis' execution date for January 5, 1991. Claiming that he would rather die than spend the rest of his life in prison, Davis decided to drop his pending federal appeals and not fight his execution.
However, just one day before he was to be strapped to the gurney in the penitentiary's death chamber, Davis changed his mind and decided to file his federal appeals, and his execution was yet again stayed.
Actions like these soon became a common occurrence with Davis, who would alternate between filing and dropping appeals throughout the 1990s, ultimately escaping five execution dates.
In the end, after much prodding from anti-death-penalty groups and members of his own family, Davis would choose to fight his execution. Ultimately, however, his efforts to get his death sentence commuted were all in vain.
On June 25th, 1997, nearly ten years after his conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Gary Davis' appeal. On October 1st, Gary Davis received his final execution date. He would die by lethal injection at 8:00 PM on October 14th, 1997.
Gary Davis' last hope was for the governor of Colorado to commute his sentence. Days before his scheduled execution, he made a televised apology to the May family, and filed a petition for clemency to Colorado governor Roy Romer, asking for mercy.
|As part of his bid to convince Governor Roy Romer to grant him clemency, Gary Davis made a televised apology from death row to the family of Virginia May. The governor was not moved.|
But Romer refused to grant mercy to the convicted killer. "There has undoubtedly been some rehabilitation of his character and his demeanor", Governor Romer wrote in his denial. "But I do not believe that whatever remorse or rehabilitation that is displayed here justifies reaching that extraordinary event that would cause this governor to grant him clemency".
The Devil Returns Home
For Gary Lee Davis, the clock ran out at 12:00 PM on October 14th, 1997, when he received word that Governor Romer had denied him clemency. He was escorted from death row to a small holding cell just down the hallway from the execution chamber.
There, Davis met with his family, friends, and his attorney. He even joked with the guards, and told them of his love of fishing, sports, and his boyhood dream of becoming a "cowboy" - all things that could have defined Davis' life, had fate taken a different turn.
|Gary Lee Davis spent his final hours in this nondescript holding cell, just down the hall from the execution chamber|
At 4:30 PM, Davis ordered his last meal of chocolate and vanilla ice cream. He shared the meal with the prison superintendent and a corrections manager. "Food sure tastes better when it's shared!", Davis joked. He later asked for a cigarette, but, because smoking was banned in Colorado prisons, his request was denied.
At 7:56 PM, Gary Davis left his holding cell for the last time. Shackled and escorted by several guards, Davis was led down the hall and through a sliding metal door to the execution chamber - a brightly-lit room where a maroon-colored lethal injection gurney stood upright, waiting for him.
Behind a window, obscured by a large tan curtain, several witnesses sat in a nearby room. Among them was the prosecutor, Bob Grant; Ginny May's father, Rod MacLennan; and Ginny's brother, Dave.
|Gary Lee Davis was executed by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Canon City, on October 14th, 1997. To date, he remains the last person put to death by the state of Colorado.|
At 8:23, the curtain separating the witness room from the death chamber parted, revealing Gary Davis to the witnesses. The convicted murderer, clothed in dark-green prison scrubs, lay strapped onto the gurney, his arms extended at his sides with two IV lines set in his veins.
Davis turned his head to look at the witnesses. He made eye contact with his attorney, then turned his head to look at the frame of the door in front of him. He never once looked at the family of the young woman he murdered.
|From an adjoining witness room, Rod MacLennan watched the murderer of his daughter die|
The warden read Davis the death warrant: "It is the judgement, sentence, and warrant of this court that the defendant, Gary Lee Davis, having been found and judged guilty of the first-degree murder of Virginia Louise May, be sentenced to suffer the penalty of death by lethal injection"
When given the opportunity to make a last statement, Davis said nothing. There was no last minute apology, no final admission of guilt, and nothing to the family of the woman he so brutally murdered. His silence, in the end, spoke for him.
At 8:24 PM, while a priest prayed beside Davis, an executioner in an adjoining room injected the first drug, sodium thiopental, into the IV lines. Gary Davis clenched his hand into a fist as the drug took effect and slowly closed his eyes as he drifted off to sleep.
At 8:26, the executioner administered the second drug, pancuronium bromide, to stop Davis' breathing. Davis' lips twitched and his eyes fluttered, and the rise and fall of his chest slowly came to a stop.
Finally, at 8:30 PM, the exectioner administered the final drug, potassium chloride, to induce cardiac arrest. As the drug took effect, Davis' face turned a slightly blue color. His clenched fist slowly relaxed as he took his last breaths.
At 8:33 PM, on October 14th, 1997, Gary Lee Davis was pronounced dead. The solemn, 11-year-long case had come to its somber, grim conclusion.
As the curtains to the witness room closed, Rod MacLennan made one last look at the body of the man who killed his daughter. "We got her done", he whispered. The nightmare was finally over.
A Message to Colorado's Legislators
It has been more than 20 years since Gary Davis was executed, and since 1997 the family of Virginia May has made a slow, but definite recovery from the tragedy they endured. After the execution, Rod MacLennan promised to never again devote a single second of his thoughts to Gary Davis. The closure he needed had been achieved. The man who murdered his daughter would never be able to hurt him and his family ever again.
But, since 1997, there has also been a growing movement in Colorado that seeks to abolish the very penalty that provided the May family with the closure they needed. And, today, they have a chance to make their opinions become the law. The current governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, has described the death penalty as "racist" and a "failed experiment", and has said he will sign an abolition bill if it reaches his desk.
But the fact of the matter is that the gruesome crime Gary Davis committed perfectly illustrates why Colorado should keep the death penalty. Gary Lee Davis was everything that the death penalty was meant for. He was a rapist, a sadist, a murderer, and a predator, and to give him anything but death would not have been justice. He deserved nothing short of execution.
To those legislators in Colorado saying that the death penalty is not needed because so much time has passed since the last execution, I will remind them that Davis' execution was the first in Colorado in 30 years. And it is fortunate that the death penalty existed, otherwise taxpayers would still be footing the bill for a dangerous, evil, predatory inmate who long ago forfeited his right to life. The May family would still have to live with the fact that the man who murdered their beloved Ginny was still alive and being cared for with their tax money - providing him the very same thing he denied his victim: life.
Of course, executing Davis did not bring Ginny May back to life. But that's not the point of the death penalty. The point of the death penalty isn't redemption, and it honestly shouldn't be.
Murder is an irreparable act. Nothing can ever bring the victim back, and nothing can ever redeem the murderer of his actions. Murder is the ultimate crime, and the ultimate crime should warrant the ultimate punishment.
Colorado currently has three murderers on death row: Nathan Dunlap, Robert Ray, and Sir Mario Owens. All three of them were heinous criminals, who committed crimes well deserving of the death penalty. They were given their due process in a court of law, and a jury of their peers decided that they deserved to die for their crimes.
Death sentences are handed down by the people, and any decisions made regarding death penalty law should also be left up to the people. If the legislature truly wanted to speak for their constituents, they would not put forth a bill that would go directly against the wishes of the majority of Colorado's voters. Colorado reinstated the death penalty by a popular referendum, and it should only be repealed by a popular referendum.
And there is only one reason death penalty opponents don't want a popular referendum on the issue: they know they will lose. They know they are wrong, and they know that their constituents know they are wrong. They know their movement promotes injustice and legitimizes evil. They know that they put the lives of murderers over the lives of innocents. And they just don't care.
Those who defend evil are themselves evil. Those who defend the devil become the devil. And, if Colorado passes this abolition bill - as seems increasingly likely - they will be defending the devil. They will be spitting in the face of the voting public and our justice system. And they will have screwed over their constituents, the legal system, and the entire concept of justice itself.
Evil people like Gary Lee Davis have no right to life. They have no right to breathe the same air that we do. The only right they have is to die. And the only injustice is that their death will be so much more humane than that of their victims.
I will close with a quote from the late Justice Antonin Scalia:
"You want to have a fair death penalty system? You kill; you die. That's fair!"