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.

Beverly Davis' stories also grew fantastic. She claimed to be the estranged daughter of Houston millionaire Jack Blanton. She also claimed that she and an ex-husband had been wildly successful in the aloe vera business. But her husband, she said, frequently beat her--beat her so severely that her face had to be surgically reconstructed. After their divorce, he supposedly made off with their aloe vera fortune.

That summer, the Marshalls' concern about their new friends peaked.
One night, Mike Davis was driving the foursome to dinner in his faded red Chevy Lumina. Through the rear-view mirror, he made eye contact with Bruce Marshall. He asked if Marshall was carrying a gun.

Marshall said no, he wasn't.
An awkward silence followed.
Beverly blurted, "So I'm the only one in the car with a gun right now."

Startled, Marshall asked Beverly if she had a concealed-weapon permit. When Beverly said she did, Marshall's wife asked if she could see it. Beverly refused, saying she never showed her permit to anybody.

"There's not a person in the state of Texas who isn't pleased as punch to show you that they've got a permit to carry a weapon," says Marshall. "I knew that something was very wrong."

The next day, Marshall resolved to discover the truth about Mike and Beverly Davis. He remembered Mike's comment that you can find out a lot about a person on a computer.

In his patrol car, he logged onto his mobile computer and searched for Beverly's driver's license. In Texas, when an officer runs a computer check on a driver's license, the driver's gun permit will also pop up, if he or she has one. After a good deal of searching, Marshall found Beverly's license under "Beverly Cottrell," her name from her first marriage; he thought that was odd, since Beverly and Mike had been married for more than a year. Marshall waited for the attached information about the gun permit, but nothing appeared on the screen. Beverly didn't have a permit.

She had lovingly described the palatial estate that she and her former husband supposedly owned in Richardson. Bruce and Margaret drove to Richardson to check out the house at the address listed on Beverly's driver's license. It was a nice enough house, but certainly not the mansion Beverly had described.

Margaret called a well-placed friend at Southern Methodist University to check out Beverly's claim to be the daughter of Jack Blanton, a major SMU supporter. The friend reported that Blanton has no daughter named Beverly and had never heard of Beverly Davis.

Bruce and Margaret now figured they should also take a look at Mike and Beverly's current home, to see whether it was the hellhole they described. A few months earlier, the Davises had returned from a trip to New Orleans with a present of candy for their new friends. At the time, Marshall had asked Davis for his home address so he could send a thank-you note; Davis later acknowledged receiving the note. Marshall and his wife drove to the location on Skillman Avenue. Instead of a house, they found a post office box.

Bruce wondered, "Who is this guy?"
In September 1997, Bruce Marshall celebrated his 45th birthday. During the celebration, Mike Davis let it slip that his birthday was also in September, but refused to say exactly what day. From past conversations, Marshall knew that Davis was a year younger than himself. Armed with that information, Marshall began searching for Davis' driver's license. Calculating that Davis had been born sometime in 1953, Marshall entered the name Michael Lee Davis into his patrol car computer 365 times--once for each day of 1953. He found nothing.

In mid-September, Marshall turned to the Garland Police Department's intelligence division. Suspecting that Davis was a con artist, the intelligence officers offered to set up surveillance on Davis.

Marshall started to accept their offer. But then he got home, and thought, "Hell, I'm a cop. I can follow this guy myself."

Bruce told Margaret about his plan. She grimaced, then agreed to help.
The Marshalls were scheduled to have dinner with the Davises on Saturday night. That day, Bruce Marshall borrowed a friend's car and parked it in a neighbor's driveway.

The Davises picked up the Marshalls, and the two couples drove to an Italian restaurant in Plano for dinner. Afterward, as usual, the Davises insisted on going back to the Marshalls' house.

Around 1 a.m., Mike and Beverly finally took the Marshalls' hints that it was time go. The Marshalls walked them to the front porch and waved good-bye. But as soon as the Davises turned the corner, Bruce sprinted across the street, jumped in the borrowed car, and followed the mystery couple to a house at 10553 Galena in Dallas--a simple corner house in a safe-looking neighborhood.

The next day, Bruce Marshall drove to Richland College, hoping to uncover Davis' school records. According to the registrar, Davis had specifically requested that no information about him be released, so she couldn't allow Marshall to see the records. But knowing that he was a cop, she said that if he'd sign a release, she'd try to answer any questions.

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