Death Merchant

In 1979, Walter Waldhauser Jr. arranged the murder of a Houston family. Today, he has a new name and a new business in Dallas,but he still profits when people die.

After a story in the Arizona Daily Star revealed Davis' past, university officials blocked his graduation on the grounds that he had lied on his law school application.

Afterward, Bonds lost track of Davis, knowing only that he'd relocated to Dallas. Then, from out of the blue, Bonds received a phone call that made him worry that Walter Waldhauser Jr.--a.k.a. Michael Lee Davis--was again up to no good.

In early 1997, Bruce Marshall, an easygoing patrol officer in Garland, began considering a career in health care and enrolled in a biology night class at Richland College. Most of the students were obviously fresh out of high school; Marshall, 46, quickly pegged himself as the oldest student in the class. But then he noticed another man approximately his age.

Two nights later, the class divided up into groups of three for a lab. The other older man asked Marshall if he'd like to be one of his lab partners. Marshall agreed, as did a young woman.

The man introduced himself as Mike Davis, and during a break, he asked Marshall what he did for a living. Marshall usually doesn't volunteer that information--he's heard too many complaints about traffic tickets and bone-headed cops. So he said that he was a sanitation worker, and considering the human trash he'd dealt with, he didn't consider that answer a lie.

But he could tell that Davis didn't buy it. And for the next several weeks, Davis pestered Marshall to reveal his job. Each time, Marshall replied that he was a sanitation worker.

After about a month, Davis laughed and said, "You know, Bruce, you can find out about anybody if you know how to use a computer."

It dawned on Marshall that Davis might have been running computer checks on him. So Marshall came clean and admitted that he was a cop.

"He looked at me," remembers Marshall, "and he said, 'Oh, are you really?' And I thought to myself, 'Man, you are so full of shit.' I wasn't telling him anything he didn't already know. He just wanted to hear me say it."

Davis seemed to go out of his way to develop their friendship. Repeatedly, he suggested that the two of them and their wives get together for dinner.

He also encouraged Marshall to keep up his pursuit of another career. "He often told me that I was too smart to be a cop," recalls Marshall. "And I'd say, 'Gee, thanks--I think.'"

Davis claimed to be an attorney, but was evasive about the sort of law he practiced. He claimed to have attended several law schools and said he graduated from Arizona State University. But, he said, he was tired of being a lawyer.

He explained that he was taking biology because he was considering medical school. He said he'd once been involved in a case where a consultant was both a doctor and a lawyer, and the guy pulled down huge fees. (That claim is actually not that far from the truth: Dr. Jachimczyk, the county medical examiner who investigated the Wanstrath case, holds degrees in both law and medicine.)

"My first thought was that he could do it," says Marshall. "He seemed that sharp." Davis exuded a strange charm, and seemed always to be the center of attention during class.

Still, Marshall felt that something was odd. Davis liked to give the impression that he was a high roller, and boasted about having his $40,000-a-year paralegal transcribe the class lectures that he always taped. It also troubled Marshall that he could never contact Davis directly. Davis always carried his cell phone, but every time Marshall called, he had to leave voice mail.

Despite those misgivings, Marshall finally accepted Davis' invitation to get together with their wives for dinner. The two couples spent a pleasant evening at a Mexican restaurant in northeast Dallas.

In late February, Marshall and two other Garland police officers responded to the report of a bank robbery in progress. One of the officers was killed during a gun battle. Devastated, Marshall dropped the biology class.

Davis saw Marshall's name in the newspaper account of the holdup and called Marshall to say he was praying for him. A few days later, Davis and his wife, Beverly, brought the Marshalls ice cream from Baskin-Robbins. Before leaving, Davis made a point of telling Marshall's wife, Margaret, how much he cared for her husband.

The Marshalls were touched, and over the next few months, began to see Mike and Beverly Davis more frequently. But the more they saw of them, the more things didn't add up.

Though Mike and Beverly were becoming frequent guests at the Marshalls'--perhaps a little too frequent--they never invited the Marshalls to their home. The Davises claimed their house was a dump in a dangerous part of Dallas. The Davises heaped extravagant praise on the Marshalls' decidedly middle-class home. (Marshall half-expected them to say, "Gosh, indoor plumbing!") Inevitably, just before leaving, Beverly would break down and cry at the thought of having to return to her own home.

All the while, Marshall wondered: If Davis was such a high roller--if he could afford to pay a paralegal $40,000 a year--why didn't he simply move to a different neighborhood?

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