Fallen Angel

With Christmas just 10 days away, the petite blonde sat at her computer screen, engaged in her night-owl habit of checking e-mails and responding to chat-room questions posed by a growing collection of fans she'd never expected to have. True-crime author Barbara Davis, at 49 a latecomer to her profession, was still a stranger to the New York Times best-seller list. It had, in fact, taken a public admission that she had become convinced that Darlie Routier, a convicted murderer whom she had vilified in print, was actually not guilty, to turn her into a minor book-world celebrity.

Her epiphany had vaulted Davis from the role of chronicler to active participant in the controversial and ongoing saga of Routier, the Rowlett mother accused of killing her two children and convicted of the murder of 5-year-old Damon. And with her almost evangelical pleadings on TV talk shows, in newspaper articles, and in the new world of cyberspace, Davis had earned a public awareness that went well beyond the mid-list sales of the original paperback, Precious Angels, that she'd written on the case. The high praises suddenly coming her way via the Web site, then, were not applauding her writing so much as her conversion and new-found conviction.

Such was the tenor of most of the e-mails she read and replied to that night, as December 14th passed into the wee hours of the 15th. Earlier she had responded to a question about her career with the explanation that time spent away from writing while spreading the word of Routier's innocence had created a financial hardship that had made taking a part- time job at a local hospital necessary.

And then, shortly after 1:30 a.m., she read a message that caused her to bolt upright in her chair. "If you're so hard up for money," the unsigned e-mail questioned, "why don't you sell some of that marijuana you're growing in your house?"

A new true-crime story -- involving dark suggestions of conspiracy and retribution, family feuding on a grand scale, lawsuits, and accusations of overzealous actions on the part of a suburban police department and one of its officers -- was about to unfold.

It was shortly after 10:30, later that morning, December 15 of last year, when Davis' 25-year-old son, Troy, clad only in drawstring pajama bottoms, peeked into his mother's bedroom and announced that he was preparing breakfast. Barbara, who had remained at her computer until well after 3 a.m., said she wanted to sleep a while longer.

Minutes later, all hell broke loose. A booming sound signaled that leaders of a 17-member police task force were shattering the front door of the one-story tan brick home in the 8200 block of Ulster Drive of North Richland Hills. The officers were armed with a "no-knock" warrant to search for "a substantial amount of marijuana," which an unnamed informant had assured them they would find.

Across the street, John and Rose Sanderson, longtime residents of the neighborhood, had seen the police's unmarked van pull up two doors down from the Davis house and watched the scene unfold through the window of their garage. After several officers disappeared into the alcove leading to the Davis front door, John Sanderson heard the loud sound of the door being broken down, then "about two, maybe three seconds later," two rapid gun shots.

What neither he nor his wife could see was the tragic scene playing out inside the Davis home. On the living-room floor, his head just a few feet from wrapped gifts beneath a gaily decorated Christmas tree, Troy Davis lay stretched on an Oriental rug. He was bleeding badly from gunshot wounds to the chest and upper thigh.

Although he would be administered CPR by the same officer who fired the two .45 caliber shots, Davis was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Columbia North Hills Hospital. An autopsy revealed cannabis, trace amounts of alcohol, and the prescription drug Darvon in his system.

In the somber days that followed, what happened during those flash-bang seconds after the officers stormed into the Davis home would quickly develop into a bizarre controversy that has lost no steam in the four months since the event. In fact, the incident, which eventually led to Davis' being charged on three felony drug counts, has brough about a series of allegations from all corners of the controversy: allegations by police of a drug-dealing family that tried to shoot first; by the Davis family, which blames Barbara for killing her ex-husband -- after she shot him; by Darlie-is-innocent supporters who say Barbara was set up because she now believes Darlie didn't do it; by a lawyer who accuses the cops of a cold-blooded killing; and by observers who say that no matter what went on behind Barbara Davis' closed door, the police should never have knocked it down and killed her son.

The police version was straightforward and dry, as police versions usually are. At a news conference three weeks after the raid, law enforcement officials described the possibility of great danger to the tactical team, a situation they say made the use of the increasingly controversial "no-knock" warrant essential. The confidential informant, police chief Tom Shockley noted, had told investigators that a paranoid and reclusive Troy Davis routinely met people at the door with a gun loaded with Teflon-coated bullets (known on the street as "cop killers" since they are capable of penetrating body armor).

Upon entry, Shockley stated, members of the raid team loudly identified themselves as police and were immediately confronted by Davis, armed with a SIG-Sauer 9 mm pistol. The young man took "an aggressive shooting stance," pointing the gun at the officers. He was then shot twice by 37-year-old North Richland Hills officer Allen Hill. It was later determined, Shockley says, that Davis' pistol was loaded, with a bullet in the chamber, although it had not been fired during the confrontation.

While Hill administered aid to the dying young man, other members of the tactical team found Barbara Davis still in her bedroom, a loaded Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver beneath her pillow. Only after considerable coaxing did the hysterical mother hand over the weapon.

During the subsequent search of the Davis residence, the "substantial amount" of marijuana addressed in the search warrant wasn't found; only a couple of pill bottles and film canisters containing a few marijuana-plant seeds, a glass bong, a "marijuana smoking pipe," a set of scales, and a book titled Marijuana Grower's Insider's Guide. A closet at the rear of the house had apparently been transformed into a "growing room," outfitted with lights, humidifiers, irrigation equipment, and an assortment of growing chemicals. But no plants. No marijuana, in fact, was found until investigators went into the back yard of the Davis home. There they located three plants growing in pots. Officials later determined that collectively they had a usable weight of only 2 to 4 ounces.

The evidence hardly pointed to the major pot-selling operation the arresting officers had expected to find. (In fact, the marijuana possession charge, a misdemeanor, was recently dismissed.) What they did stumble into, however, was something far more disturbing: enough weaponry to put a smile on the face of the Montana Freemen (16 firearms, ranging from handguns to shotguns to a loaded AR-15 assault rifle, and 700 rounds of ammunition) and 193.2 grams of GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), commonly known as the "date rape" drug. Enough, police chief Shockley would later say, to make as many as 600 doses of the odorless, colorless, and potentially lethal designer drug. In Davis' bedroom, officers also found printed instructions for making GHB.

Davis, arrested and originally charged with four counts of possessing and manufacturing drugs, insisted that she had purchased the GHB over the Internet for use in her battle with insomnia. She said she knew nothing about the marijuana plants growing in her back yard. And the guns, most of which had belonged to her late husband, were all legally owned.

Davis, who insists she had recently been receiving threats over the Internet in the wake of her defense of Routier, says, "I think this was done to destroy my credibility. Troy was in the kitchen cooking and had just tapped on my bedroom door to ask if I wanted something to eat. He could not have been armed." She describes her son, who was planning to join the Haltom City First Baptist Church the following Sunday, as someone who "did not drink, smoke, or use illegal drugs."

In short order, Internet chat rooms hummed with new conspiracy theories, most based on the notion that Davis had been set up, targeted for reprisal for her new role as a Routier advocate. The truth is less Machiavellian, but just as strange. It leads not to a set-up by police, but one by relatives. It's the first piece in a family-feud puzzle that had been building since a young woman named Barbara Jean McNabb married into the Davis family in 1970.

When Bob Davis, the 55-year-old brother-in-law of Barbara Davis, arrives at the office of his Budget Casket Company ("Prices to Die For"), he is dressed in a bright print sport shirt, his graying hair pulled back in a short ponytail. A self-described "old hippie," he smiles warmly from behind frameless glasses, settles behind his desk, and begins to talk of the stormy relationship between his late brother Jim and the woman he refers to as "Barbara Jean."

He quickly admits that it was the wife of his other brother, Dan, who sent the mystery e-mail to Davis. And, he acknowledges, it was he and his 28-year-old son, Chris, who alerted the North Richland Hills police to drug activity in the home of Barbara and Troy Davis. Yes, he says, it is Chris who is the "confidential informant" mentioned in the affidavit for the search warrant. Chris Davis, his father says, will not speak with reporters. "This has really upset him. He's lost a lot of weight; he's lost his job. He just got caught in the middle of all this."

But Bob Davis, even though he's been asked by the Tarrant County District Attorney's office not to talk about the case, has a story to tell. He has, he says, long been suspicious that Barbara Davis was responsible for the late-night heart attack that claimed the life of his 47-year-old brother in 1995.

"She [Barbara] met Jim when she was 17 or 18, working in a dime store," he remembers. "She was a pretty little thing, and he fell in love right away." They soon married, purchased a trailer house, and moved it onto the northeast Tarrant County farm of Jim Davis' father. In time, the couple made the move to the three-bedroom house on Ulster Drive, where they would live for the remainder of their 25-year marriage.

The Davises had two children: daughter Lisa, born in 1971, and son Troy, born in 1975. Jim Davis worked as a title investigator for the Texas Department of Transportation and joined the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department as a reserve deputy. Barbara did secretarial work for several attorneys and in 1982 became a clerk in the Tarrant County District Attorney's office. By 1984 she had been promoted to work with survivors of violent crimes. Four years later she became court coordinator for state District Judge Everett Young.

The marriage was not without its storm clouds. In September of 1982, Bob Davis, living in Houston at the time, received a phone call alerting him that his brother Jim had been shot and was in the hospital. The shooter, he was told, was Jim's wife, Barbara.

At the hospital, where his brother was recovering from wounds to the stomach and leg, Bob Davis learned what had transpired.

According to Bob Davis, his brother had been concerned that Barbara was cheating, and he had confronted her about it one evening. In response, she stormed out of the house and drove to a neighborhood 7-Eleven. Her husband followed Barbara, and found her talking on a pay phone.

"She saw him and ran to her car, got in, and crouched down in the seat," Bob Davis says. "Jim had bought her this little chrome .25 caliber pistol, and she just pointed it out the window and emptied the clip."

With Jim Davis writhing in pain in the parking lot, his wife sped away. "She drove straight to an osteopathic hospital over on [Highway] 183 and checked herself into their loony bin [psych ward]," Bob Davis says.

"Now, Jim tells me all this, how he laid there until an ambulance came, and then asks me if I would go talk to Barbara for him, see if she's OK. I find her, and she wants me to go back and tell Jim that she was never unfaithful to him, how much she loved him, and all that."

Returning to his brother, Bob Davis passed along Barbara's message. "I could tell he was believing her story," Davis says. "A week later he got out of the hospital and went over and picked her up. Jim was a family man and felt whatever it took to make the marriage work, he'd do."

Barbara's account of the motive for the shooting and events that transpired afterward is quite different.

Her husband, she says, had been diagnosed as manic-depressive and was taking Lithium at the time. "I was getting ready to go to UT-Arlington, where I was taking a criminal justice course, and while I was getting dressed I sensed something was wrong with Jim," she recalls. "He was acting strange, and I asked if he was taking his medication. He gave me a hug and a kiss and assured me that he was.

"When I came home at around 8:30, I pulled into the driveway and saw that all the lights in the house were out, and I could hear the song 'War' playing loudly inside." Fearful of what she might find in the house, she decided to drive to a nearby convenience store and phoned the house, she says. "I knew if I could hear his voice I'd know everything was OK. I remember it ringing 13 times with no answer. Then I saw him pulling into the parking lot in his pickup, getting out, and coming toward me with a rifle. He was yelling something like 'Viet Cong...Viet Cong...' over and over."

Her husband, she says, had long been conflicted over the fact that he had been exempted from the draft and thus had not served during the Vietnam conflict.

"I had this little gun he'd gotten me, and I just started shooting. Then I ran into the store and told someone to call 911 because I'd shot my husband."

While she did check herself into Northeast Community Hospital, it was only after a visit to the Richland Hills Police Department in the company of officers investigating the shooting. "They never even cuffed me," she says. "In fact, one of the officers there told me that my husband had called from the hospital and asked that I be told he loved me and not to worry; that everything was OK."

Jim Davis, who his widow says was hospitalized only overnight, later filed an affidavit in which he swore the incident was his fault, and records were ultimately expunged. "Jim and I saw a counselor afterward," she says, "and he promised never to skip his medicine again."

Says Tom Carse, Barbara Davis' attorney, "It's not something that bears any relationship whatsoever to Troy being executed by the North Richland Hills Police Department. This is the Troy Davis case, not the family feud."

You couldn't tell it by listening to Bob Davis.

When Howard Davis died and the family farm was sold, each son -- Bob, Jim, and Dan -- received in excess of $300,000. "We were driving back from picking up the checks," Bob Davis remembers, "and Jim said, 'I've got to do something with this money so Barbara can't get her hands on it.' He kinda laughed and said, 'But if she can't get her hands on it, I'll be dead in two years.'"

Joking or not, Jim Davis' estimate of his life expectancy was accurate. His death only widened the gap between Barbara Davis and her suspicious in-laws. It led to extreme (and unsubstantiated) charges being leveled against her by Bob Davis.

"Leading up to his death," says Bob, "Jim had three heart seizures, all at around 2 a.m." He and other members of the Davis family began to wonder whether Barbara might have given him something that brought on the heart problems. Bob says that after his brother's death, he went to the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department and voiced his concerns. "I was told that since we had no proof I'd best forget about it," he says.

Prior to her husband's death, Barbara Davis says, he had been hospitalized with meningitis for a week but had never experienced heart problems. "He had only the one heart attack," she says. "That night, I was up writing until around 3, then went to bed. When the alarm went off the following morning, Jim didn't shut it off like he usually did. Then the dog began barking. That's when I knew something was wrong. I called 911 and gave him mouth-to-mouth, but he was already gone."

Davis says she feels betrayed by her brother-in-law and nephew. "None of it is true," she says. "Not a single word. I loved my husband very much."

The words "greedy" and "violent" in no way describe the Barbara Davis I had known casually since the publication of her first book. She had phoned shortly before the paperback version of Stalked, a chilling story she'd written with rape victim La Vonne Skalias, was to be published, asking whether I might read it and write a cover blurb. I did so and later attended a local book signing, where I met her for the first time. In the years that followed we appeared together on a panel discussion of crime writing and said our hellos at occasional book gatherings. For a time, we were represented by the same literary agent.

She was an attractive woman who struck me as a bit shy. Only when she talked of making a career for herself as a writer of true crime did real passion enter her voice. She brought no journalism background to her task, but she had experience working in the legal world and was regularly attending meetings of the D-FW Writers group to improve her skills.

Davis, by all accounts, worked hard at her newfound craft. When a piece of evidence in the Routier case troubled her, she went in search of her own answers. When she learned that a blood-stained sock had been found in an alley some distance from the Routier house -- supposedly left by a nameless intruder who defense attorneys alleged did the crime -- Davis, stopwatch in hand, timed herself as she raced from the Routier house to the location of the sock. She concluded (for the time being, at least) that Darlie Routier had ample time to plant the evidence before the police arrived.

In her book on the Routier case, published in January of last year, Davis pulled no punches. After attending the Kerrville trial, conducting numerous interviews, and poring over police reports, she concluded that the 28-year-old Darlie Routier had simply reached the meltdown point in a young mother's life and savagely murdered her 5- and 6-year-old sons on an early June morning in 1996. That done, she self-inflicted a wound to her neck, staged an elaborate crime scene to match a concocted story she planned to tell, summoned crocodile tears, and dialed 911. To readers of Precious Angels, there could be no question the author strongly believed not only that Routier was guilty but that she defined evil.

Then, shortly after publication, Davis reversed her field, citing evidence that neither she nor the jury had been privy to, testimony that she was convinced was perjured, and a less than stellar performance from Routier's defense team, as well as questionable practices by the prosecutors. A self-published book by an amateur Lewisville sleuth named Christopher Brown, Media Tried, Justice Denied, containing photos taken at the crime scene and the hospital where Routier was taken for treatment, gave Davis pause. In short order she was a believer in Routier's innocence, had visited her in jail to ask her forgiveness, and emerged as the most celebrated voice in the Darlie-didn't-do-it chorus. Virtually everyone Davis had once praised, thanked, or written positively of in her book became a target in her post-publication turn-around. (See the Dallas Observer's cover story "The cult of Darlie," May 5, 1999.)

A statement Davis posted on the busy Darlie Routier Web site offers ample proof of her new posture. In part, it reads: "Now is the time for us to rise up and exert so much relentless and tremendous pressure on officials that they will have no other choice but to set Darlie Routier free. I'll probably never get this out of my system but I was WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!"

Such, apparently, was her mind-set when things began to unravel, beginning a month before the raid on her house -- beginning, in fact, on Thanksgiving Day.

The Davis family had gathered for its traditional Thanksgiving meal and was just preparing to sit down at the table when Chris Davis received a phone call. It was Troy Davis, asking Chris to come to the North Richland Hills home immediately. "Chris told us," Bob Davis says, "that Troy was talking about committing suicide, and he left immediately."

It would be several days before Bob Davis really learned what had transpired between his son Chris and Troy and Barbara Davis.

"He came around to the office, and I gave him a hard time about not coming back that day. He seemed really upset and said that Barbara Jean and Troy had been calling him at all hours, wanting him to get them some marijuana. He told me that Troy had been very upset, talking about how depressed he still was over his father's death," Bob Davis says. "Chris said he finally told his cousin that what he needed to do was get out of the house, get himself a job, and quit using drugs."

Bob Davis, who claims that years earlier he had regularly purchased marijuana for Barbara Davis ("I quit because my brother didn't know anything about it and I didn't like the idea of doing things behind his back," he says), told his son the best way to put an end to the harassment was to call the police.

With that, the father picked up the phone in his East Lancaster Avenue office and dialed the number of the North Richland Hills Police Department. After relaying the story his son had told him, Davis handed the phone to Chris, who described to an officer what he had seen and heard on his visit. Police urged young Davis to return to the Ulster Drive address and make certain the items he was describing were still there. A few days later he did so, then placed another call to the police.

Again Barbara Davis has a different version: Chris, she says, was not in her home on Thanksgiving Day. He had, however, visited the day after. And, she says, the reason he abruptly left was a conversation during which Troy had begun questioning him about his faith, asking whether he was a Christian and had been saved.

As to Chris Davis' accusation that there was marijuana in the house, she says, "That's a lie. All you would have found was water, Diet Pepsi, and my GHB." And, she insists, neither Bob nor Chris Davis ever provided drugs for her or her son.

Still, the information provided by Chris Davis would serve as the foundation of the affidavit for a search and arrest warrant prepared by Sgt. J.A. Wallace of the North Richland Hills Police Department and signed by state District Judge Sharen Wilson.

In the affidavit, Sgt. Wallace states that his "confidential informant" had, within the last 72 hours, been inside the Davis residence and observed both suspects in possession of and concealing substantial quantities of marijuana. Additionally, Wallace wrote that "the C.I. has observed Troy Davis in possession of several handguns kept inside the residence." A criminal-history check on Troy Davis revealed that he had been arrested on a weapons offense. The police believed the next step was obvious. In retrospect, it was nothing of the sort.

From the outset, it seems, the case was fraught with problems in preparation and execution. Of course, there are the standard lawyerly issues with technicalities, but there are other concerns as well, including problems with the police's crime-scene scenario, the background of the officer who shot Troy Davis, and the "no-knock" warrant itself.

Dallas attorney Tom Carse, who is representing the estate of Troy Davis, says the affidavit that led to the "no-knock" warrant is flawed on several counts. Among his concerns is the glaring fact that the wrong name and driver's license number appear in the document. It states that a white female named Barbara Lynn Davis was a suspect residing in the Ulster Drive home. That name, and the accompanying driver's license number, actually belongs to a Fort Worth businesswoman with no knowledge of Barbara Jean Davis or her activities.

"If this defective warrant hadn't been issued," says Carse, "we wouldn't have a dead 25-year-old."

Carse also questions the credibility of the police's confidential informant, pointing out that even in the affidavit it is noted that Chris Davis had previously been arrested on drug charges.

And the earlier weapons charge assigned to Troy Davis, the civil attorney says, could easily have been explained. According to Carse, the young man was stopped for a traffic violation in 1998. While talking with the officer, Davis volunteered that the car belonged to his mother and that a handgun registered to her was under the driver's seat. Though he was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully carrying a weapon, the case was eventually dropped.

Carse has filed a lawsuit against the city of North Richland Hills, asking that a judge order depositions from officers involved in the fatal raid. Carse says he is also considering filing a suit seeking damages. Because of the pending litigation, says North Richland Hills police spokesman Capt. Sid Johnson, "the department has been advised by legal counsel not to discuss the case."

Though it is not unusual for cases to be thrown out should a judge rule an affidavit or warrant seriously flawed, few in the law enforcement community whom the Observer spoke with believed the case would be dismissed. "So long as they had the right address," said one lawyer who wished to remain anonymous, "everything's probably OK."

But it's not the technicalities that are most troubling. What transpired inside the Davis home begs the important questions.

According to the press release issued by the North Richland Hills police, officers were "immediately confronted by an armed 25-year-old male suspect [Troy Davis] who pointed a handgun at officers in the front foyer of the residence."

Evidence collected at the scene of the shooting suggests a different scenario. Upon entering the Davis house, one looks down a 14-foot-long hallway/foyer with floor-to-ceiling walls. At the far end of the foyer, where plants and an antique Victrola sit, is an open doorway where a left turn leads into the sunken den where the dying Troy Davis lay before being transported to the hospital. One spent shell casing from Hill's gun was found in the corner of the den, the other at the end of the foyer near the doorway. Assuming the casings from the officer's gun were discharged to the right as is the normal case, their location would strongly suggest that the shots were fired not as the raiders entered the house, but only after Hill had reached the end of the foyer and turned left to face the den.

"I do not believe Troy Davis was armed, not for a minute," Carse says.

The discovery of an empty canvas pistol holster lying on Troy Davis' bed on the opposite side of the house fuels at least three possible scenarios:

· It suggests that upon becoming aware the house was being broken into, Davis would have had to run from the kitchen, where he was allegedly preparing breakfast, past the foyer, into his room, get the gun, then return to the den in those few seconds that neighbors describe between the sounds of the door being knocked down and hearing two gunshots.

· Meanwhile, those willing to play devil's advocate are quick to suggest that from the kitchen window, which faces the front of the house, Troy might have had a bird's-eye view of the approaching SWAT team before their entry and thus had ample time to arm himself before officers actually burst into the house.

· Or, is it possible that officers did first see Davis in the foyer, then he had begun a retreat through the doorway and into the den? That there was no blood trail leading from the foyer to where Davis' body lay and the fact that the fatal wounds were to the front of his body makes it seem unlikely.

The case, then, offers the kind of mystery that writer Barbara Davis might well have been drawn to -- were she not the story's central figure.

Also prominent in the tragedy's cast of characters is North Richland Hills officer Allen Hill, the member of the entry team who fired the fatal shots. Though cleared of any criminal wrongdoing last month by a grand jury investigating the shooting, he has, during his law enforcement career, been the focus of controversy.

In November of 1998, while on a tactical-team training exercise at Fort Hood, the officer exposed his penis as a group photograph was being taken and was later suspended without pay for two weeks. The lone female member of the SWAT team at the time of the incident has since left the department and is no longer involved in police work. She has a sexual-harassment complaint pending against Hill.

In a statement written by Hill in response to the internal affairs investigation of his behavior and obtained by the Observer, the officer provides a convoluted explanation of his strange actions at Fort Hood. "I realize," he writes, "that there have been comments, usually humorous in nature, about what appears to be my desire to show my genitalia at any opportunity. This is not true, nor do I have a fetish concerning my penis or anyone elses [sic] body for that matter. The truth is, via the medium of humor, I have tried to break down the barriers that I am sure we all have concerning the various sensitivities about our bodies."

Two months prior to the photo incident, Hill was investigated by internal affairs following allegations that he had physically abused a 38-year-old Hurst woman. According to police documents, Hill was accused of striking the woman with his nightstick and shoving her over a couch. Later, the woman assured officials that she had had no problems with Hill, saying that the allegations were the result of a false report made by "an acquaintance with an overactive imagination." After Hill passed a polygraph test, the investigation was dropped.

It did, however, fit a pattern that seems to have followed the officer through much of his career. While a member of the White Settlement city water department in July of 1984, he was fired following a physical altercation with his supervisor. Employment records of his dismissal, however, eventually acknowledged that it had been the supervisor who initiated the fight. A city report on the matter noted that "Mr. Hill was wrongly fired for his action."

Later, Hill worked briefly in Blue Mound and with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department before joining the Watauga Department of Public Service, first as a fireman, then as a police officer. Despite being characterized by several fellow workers as "confrontational," Hill's work earned him a number of commendations, one for his investigation of drugs being delivered to the Tarrant County jail.

At North Richland Hills, he became the designated paramedic for the department's SWAT team. Hill's responsibility to be ready to administer treatment to any member of the SWAT team injured during a raid begs a question that Davis' attorneys are likely to raise: Why would the person who would be called on to provide medical aid to fellow officers be in the lead when the house was entered, placing himself in maximum risk of injury?

After being no-billed by the grand jury, Hill returned to work and has been assigned to desk duty. According to Richland Hills police officials, he will not return to enforcement work until the legalities of the Davis case have been cleared up.

Meanwhile, the controversy of the "no-knock" warrant hangs over the case like a shroud. While legal experts nationwide criticize use of the tactic, for which there are few clear-cut guidelines, law enforcement continues to request it and judges continue to sign off on it.

And the number of lawsuits resulting from military-style police raids continues to grow. In Los Angeles recently, a jury awarded the family of suspected drug dealer Donald Scott $5 million after sheriff's deputies shot him as he emerged from his ranch house bedroom carrying a pistol.

And while North Richland Hills police chief Shockley insists that the threat of an armed Troy Davis placed his officers in potential danger, thus making the "no-knock" warrant essential, it is a law enforcement procedure that is clearly under fire. Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the provision allowing police to search a house without knocking if they believe guns might be inside.

"The use of the 'no-knock' warrant," says Fort Worth criminal defense attorney Jack Strickland, "clearly heightens the potential danger to everyone concerned. In recent years, it seems that the smaller [law enforcement] agencies have been more prone to use the Rambo-type tactics."

And so it is a mystery of many levels, best and most simply described by North Richland Hills police chief Shockley, who refers to it as "a tragic event."

Today, Barbara Davis, free on $16,000 bail, leaves her home only to visit her son's grave, attend church and grief counseling sessions, or occasionally say hello to supportive friends in the neighborhood. Word is that many of the Darlie Routier supporters who once warmly embraced her have now distanced themselves. While Davis has not changed her mind about Routier's innocence, she admits she's lost the burning desire she once had to campaign for her freedom.

She says she now suffers from short-term memory loss that developed the week after Troy's funeral and has lost almost 25 pounds. Everything, she says, is an effort: "I have to talk myself into getting out of bed, getting dressed, doing anything. And I cry a lot. I'm just trying to make it through one day at a time."

Her home, she says, is a constant reminder of the darkest moments of her life. Unable to enter the den where her son died, she restricts herself to her bedroom and the kitchen. Her mother and daughter Lisa visit occasionally, but won't come to the house. "We meet somewhere," Davis says.

As Easter approached, she was back to her late-night routine, staying up until six in the morning coloring eggs for the children at her church and to place on her son's grave. "I go there and talk to him," she admits. "Sometimes I leave little notes."

Meanwhile, her lawyers tell her it may be months before her case goes to trial. If convicted, she could face a prison term ranging from two to 20 years or as much as 10 to 99 years.

Only recently has she returned to writing. Wearied of true crime, she's working on a novel.


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