A Quiet Death

The last his family heard from him, Jacob Davidson said he could never return home. A year later, he was dead. The police say it was suicide. Those who knew him think otherwise.

Certainly, the idea that a killer or killers would loiter near their decomposing victim for more than a day sounds outlandish--unless Doe was mistaken about the keyless deadbolt and was simply having problems negotiating the lock with her master key. She insists the deadbolt was in place until April 27. Anthony Winn says that in all his years on the police force, he's never seen a case where a perpetrator hung around the scene of a crime for hours after it was committed. It just doesn't make sense. "You do your dirty work, and you get out."


The death of Jacob Davidson prompted two internal city investigations--one into the fire department's coding of the two 911 calls as a lower priority, and the other into the conduct of the officer who responded, knocked once and then left without identifying himself. 911 supervisor Raymond Sweeney acknowledges that the first operator who received Matt Parker's emergency call coded it as priority 3, meaning the call has a response-time goal of dispatching in eight minutes, with travel time of no more than six. The second operator who took Louise Doe's call could've updated it to priority 1 (reserved for life-threatening emergencies) but didn't; Sweeney says he wishes the operator had. The two 911 operators weren't fired but were sent back for three-day, eight-hour continuing education classes in call-taking.

Meanwhile, an investigation by Dallas police has resulted in one dispatcher being counseled on how to assign the proper level of police response based on comments from the 911 operators. As for the patrolman who stopped at Davidson's door and left, officials wouldn't disclose his identity but asserted that based on the information he received, he didn't have the authority to make a forced entry into the apartment. He has been readvised of the protocol for officers responding to 911 calls.

Dallas police have closed Davidson's case, because the medical examiner's office ruled his death a suicide from the toxic effect of Bupropion (another name for Wellbutrin, the anti-depressant he'd been prescribed). There were negligible traces of alcohol and a drug commonly found in cough syrup in his system, but no illegal drugs. As far as bodily injuries, the report describes only "red-brown skin abrasions" of the chin, nasal bridge, knees and lower legs--all marks that could presumably be caused from the body lying face down for hours.

A forensic pathologist who did not examine Davidson's body--and who therefore has no direct knowledge of the circumstances of his death or post-mortem state--discussed details of the case and the autopsy report at our request, but only under the condition of anonymity. The pathologist has misgivings about the medical examiner's ruling of suicide by Bupropion. Because the drug is protein-bound, it's subject to a phenomena called post-mortem release in which the proteins disintegrate so minutely that false high levels are often reported in autopsies. The fact that the body had already begun to decompose makes determining an "overdose" level equally difficult--especially in an individual who'd been taking the medication for a year before his death.

Also, the most common adverse effect recorded from large doses of Bupropion is seizure. Screaming while either seizing or overdosing is almost unheard of, the pathologist says. As far as the bleeding, if Davidson stumbled around in a delirium and finally fell face-forward by the door, blood could have seeped from his nose and mouth onto the tiled entryway during the hours in which he lay there. But as for the possibility of Davidson vomiting blood in the bathroom, Bupropion is not known to cause internal hemorrhages or stomach ulcers--the former is never mentioned in the autopsy report, and the latter is addressed with "no acute or healing ulcerations of the stomach or duodenum identified." The fact that blood is not listed among the stomach contents in the autopsy report virtually eliminates the idea that Davidson had vomited it, in this pathologist's opinion.

The word "overdose" never appears anywhere in the report--the manner of death is "suicide," but by "toxic effect of Bupropion." The pathologist we consulted said that this was fudging, noting that "toxic effect" is a phrase that normally refers to side effects from a drug in a living person--nausea or headache or dizziness, say--rather than a cause of death.

The coroner in the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office who performed the autopsy did not return phone calls to address these issues or to offer an estimate on how many pills Davidson may have taken. A spokesman replied with the following statement: "The [autopsy] report stands on its own."

Although no criminal or forensics expert herself, Doe remains unsatisfied with the findings of police and pathologists. She's convinced that people were inside the apartment with Davidson when he died. She says she's come to view death as a release from "this evil world we live in" and wants to think Jake Davidson has some peace now. But whether it was suicide, murder or some strange scenario whose details will never be known, Doe thinks Davidson might still be alive if police had responded promptly and aggressively. Certainly, the two and a half hours it took a patrolman to finally appear--and the two-day interval between 911 calls and when the body was discovered--would complicate efforts to later explore the possibility of foul play. She also has her own theory about the necessity of repeat 911 calls and what she considers a sloppy, apathetic investigation: "He was gay. He lived in a neighborhood full of drugs and crime. They don't care if he's alive or dead."

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