By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The man whom Dallas friends and co-workers knew as Jacob Davidson was raised in Wichita, Kansas, by the name of Jeremy Kendrick. His father died in an accident before Jeremy was born; when his mother, Janice, married Bob Kendrick, the man who became his stepfather legally adopted him.
Jeremy told his parents he was gay when he was 18. They worried about him, especially since, as Bob Kendrick says, "I'd always thought those relationships never lasted very long," but both parents say that, after a period of personal struggle, they accepted their son's sexual orientation. Soon after coming out, Mr. Kendrick says, Jeremy began dating other guys. He never tried to keep his romantic life hidden.
He did, however, seem to put symbolic distance between himself and his family when he legally changed his name to Jacob Davidson not long before he moved to Dallas.
"His birth father's last name was Davidson," Mrs. Kendrick says. "And he liked the nickname that he got while working at a restaurant. People started calling him 'Jake' for some reason."
Jeremy had a fondness for working in restaurants and clubs, his mother says. He'd lived in Plano for about six months in 1995 with a friend of hers, decided he liked Dallas and moved back to establish independence in 1999. In Oak Lawn, he became a popular and highly compensated bartender at Side 2 and Moby Dick. He liked the crowds and the energy. He was sweet-natured and kind to almost everyone--there was no shortage of guys willing to return his attention.
Mrs. Kendrick hadn't spoken to her son for about a year before a Saturday-morning telephone call from a friend informed her that he was dead. The last, short conversation between her and Jeremy included a mysterious declaration from him--he told his mother he could never return to Wichita again. She pressed him for a reason, and he said he couldn't tell her. He soon moved to a different apartment, and the Kendricks were never able to find him.
Getting Dallas friends and exes to comment on Jeremy/Jake's life and death is difficult. Several spoke reluctantly and briefly to Dallas Voice, the city's gay and lesbian newspaper, but didn't return phone calls or pointedly offered "no comment" for this story. A former employer who fired Davidson because he claimed the young man had attempted to pass bad checks says, "I don't want to talk about this. I have a bad feeling about the whole thing," before hanging up. At least two intimates of Davidson's left the city very shortly after his death.
Still, a portrait of Jake's short life in Dallas emerges from published reports and not-for-attribution anecdotes. He was apparently heavily in debt and used various fake names to confuse creditors. He'd had several brief relationships in the year before his death, all of which ended with Jake being the one abandoned. He seemed to get very serious very soon into a courtship, and he tended to get involved with narcissistic types to whom he ceded most of the control. When the splits happened, he took them personally and grew depressed to the point of occasionally isolating himself. He'd been prescribed and was taking daily doses of the anti-depressant Wellbutrin since last year, his doctor confirms.
The subject of illegal drug use has been raised by both family and friends. Janice Kendrick said that about seven people drove up from Dallas to attend his May 3 funeral in Garden Plains, Kansas, and they collected in her home afterward to offer their condolences. She asked one of them if her son had done drugs, and with some hesitation he admitted that yes, he'd known Jake to partake. An intimate of Jake's has contended that he sometimes used marijuana and cocaine but that they never appeared to have taken control of his life. The same could not be said of another, legal drug: alcohol. Jake was allegedly a heavy drinker, and his favorite poison was vodka. A former boyfriend knew there was a problem when, for a birthday present, he received a set of martini glasses from Davidson.
Repeat failed romances, badgering creditors, drug and alcohol use, anti-depressants--Jacob Davidson's life seemed to have entered a downward spiral at a young age, although friends indicate that he didn't seem at all despondent the last time they saw him. He'd walked away from a lucrative bartending gig at Moby Dick weeks before he died--one friend insists that, as much as he liked attention, Jake was never really comfortable when asked by management to serve drinks in just his boxer shorts--and remained unemployed for the duration, exploring various career options. He always had money for clubbing and eating out--he'd usually try to have a good time even when he was feeling down. It was a difficult but hardly unsalvageable period of his life. So what transpired in Davidson's apartment on the afternoon of April 25 that caused him to scream loudly and desperately enough to attract three outside witnesses?
Louise Doe walks me through the downstairs of Jacob Davidson's apartment in 211. She was the first to enter after Dallas police and the medical examiner had left with Davidson's body. The description of what she saw inside generally matches that of Detective Anthony Winn, who was one of the officers at the scene and later headed the investigation, and Davidson's adoptive father, Bob Kendrick, who came in with others to help clean up. There was a large pool of blood on the entry tiles at the base of the staircase, and a few feet away on the living room carpet was a smaller but sizable wet spot that turned out to be vomit. A few more feet toward the rear of the stairwell, and there's a small bathroom in which streaks of blood were on the toilet, on the floor between the toilet and the cabinets and in the sink. Police found neither alcohol nor drugs nor drug paraphernalia in the apartment.