Life Without Father

Inmates on Texas' Death Row leave behind immeasurable pain and countless victims--including their own families

Today, even Tracy admits that Davis may be retarded. "The truth is, he's not very bright," she says.

Still, back in her teen years, all the parental warnings fell on deaf ears.

From the moment Brian Davis promised they would "be together forever," the teen-agers bonded and launched on a reckless journey. Sitting at her kitchen table, Tracy, now 33, recalls the days and nights of her youth in stark, candid detail: how she evolved from being an occasional marijuana smoker to "the white stuff" (cocaine), then hash and acid, dropping out of school and living with Davis on the streets of Fort Worth by day and sleeping in one seedy motel after another at night. Of a spur-of-the-moment cross-country trip to California in a car she only learned had been stolen when the driver who'd invited them along was arrested, and of the marriage proposal Davis made in a letter he mailed to her while in jail for a probation violation.

Mark Graham
Life with Daddy: Brian Edward Davis spent a few brief years with his son, though T.J. Davis has no recollections of those days. Center snapshot: T.J. visits his father, a convicted killer, on Texas' Death Row.
Life with Daddy: Brian Edward Davis spent a few brief years with his son, though T.J. Davis has no recollections of those days. Center snapshot: T.J. visits his father, a convicted killer, on Texas' Death Row.

At a time when her high school friends were sending out graduation invitations, Tracy remembers sitting on the edge of her bed at 17, crying uncontrollably as she addressed birth announcements.

Their too-soon marriage would last just two years. When she became pregnant, Tracy had turned away from the rudderless lifestyle, stopped using drugs and urged her husband to do the same. He couldn't. Her father, who had given Brian a job with his construction company, soon wearied of his unreliable son-in-law being a no-show and fired him. At his next job in a pizza joint, Brian returned home after only a few hours on the job. When Tracy asked what had happened, her husband explained that he'd been fired when he couldn't properly write down the phone-in orders. Having dropped out of school after completing the eighth grade, Brian could barely read and write.

Though too young and feckless to realize it at the time, his life was already spiraling in the wrong direction. Too much Budweiser and Jack Daniel's, too much time spent prowling the streets in a drugged haze and a multitude of ill-conceived schemes to support his wife and newborn son and finance his habits took their toll.

In time, he was arrested again and sentenced to six years in prison for distributing marijuana.

Tracy thought it was time for her and her infant son to move on. In the fall of 1988, she filed for divorce. "Back then," she says, "I can remember seeing Brian cry only two times. The first was when T.J. was born. Those were tears of pure joy. The other was when I told him I was filing for divorce."

Recently, however, she saw tears again. They came when she visited her ex-husband as he awaited his fast-approaching execution date.

Even though their lives have taken drastically different courses, that inexplicable bond, forged as teen-agers, remains. Though married to her third husband and the mother of two, Tracy Tucker makes no secret of her ongoing support of Davis. They've never lost touch, corresponding regularly, talking on the phone and visiting through the Plexiglas on Death Row more times than she can recall. "We've always had a relationship," she says. "It's been that way since that first day we met as kids."

Her current husband, Paul, a heavy equipment mechanic, tries hard to understand, to not allow her feelings for her ex to damage their four-year marriage, but struggles with it at times. He declined the Dallas Observer's request for an interview.

"He, like a lot of people, has told me I need to let go of Brian, to move on and just focus on my life with him and the children," she admits. "I know he's right, but I just can't."

It's impossible for her to explain, she says, but the passage of time and traumatic events--even the horrible crime for which Brian Davis was convicted and sentenced to die--have failed to dim her feelings.

The death of 31-year-old Michael Foster had been ugly, violent and senseless.

According to a videotaped confession given by Brian Davis, he and Tina Louise McDonald, a woman he'd married just two months earlier, had met the mildly retarded Foster in a Houston nightclub at the end of an evening of drinking and listening to punk-rock music.

Foster, who had suffered brain damage at birth and had no drivers license, routinely took a bus to the city's glittery Montrose area from nearby Humble to visit clubs on the weekends. In the early-morning hours of August 10, 1991, he'd been offered a ride home by Davis and his wife. According to his confession, Davis had accompanied the victim into his apartment, expecting him to pay gas money for the trip. When Foster said he had no cash, the drunken Davis allegedly stabbed him 11 times, then, with a ballpoint pen, drew a swastika and the letters NSSH, the initials of the National Socialist Skin Heads, on his abdomen. Vulgar neo-Nazi messages were also written on the living-room wall near where Foster, who was white, lay.

When the body was found three days later, investigators saw that Foster's nose had also been broken, as if someone had kicked him in the face. The pockets of his trousers were turned inside out. Several personal items, including a red leather jacket he'd been wearing when last seen, were missing.

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