In all, from the way the police and a host of people around Davis portray it, Davis seems to be taking a lawyer's approach to the disappearance, offering possible theories while, police allege, holding some things back. He told the Observer in his brief letter, for instance, "This is not the first time my wife has disappeared with a large sum of cash."
There is a kernel of truth in that statement, but it's hardly relevant to what has happened now, some relatives say. In 1985, five years into her marriage, Sharon Davis called her mother and her mother-in-law and began driving west with her children, heading to relatives in California, Beverly Ware says. "She took some money from a joint checking account, which was her money," Ware says.
Sharon, who had also taken legal steps and filed for a divorce those 17 years ago, ended up having second thoughts during the drive west. She turned back and reconciled with Ron.
This time, however, she vanished without a word. There have been no credit card transactions, no phone records, nothing to suggest where she is or whether she's alive.
During the last several years, friends and relatives say, the Davis marriage was all but over. The couple came to occupy separate bedrooms. Any warmth or affection was gone, the children say.
But still, a lot of folks were fooled by appearances. "We're like the ideal family," Ronnie Davis says. "But on the inside, there's a completely different story."
It begins in 1980 in Los Angeles, where Sharon and Ron first met. Both were from out of town; he, from Milwaukee, the son of a cement mason who raised 11 children in a blue-collar part of the city. Ron was six years out of the University of Wisconsin Law School and recently divorced after the birth of a daughter, Ronnette, when he met Sharon Ware.
Sharon was born in Mobile, Alabama, the daughter of an Air Force sergeant and product of a failed marriage that left her mother rearing four children alone in Las Vegas and, later, Los Angeles. Like Ron, Sharon had an advanced degree, a master's in public administration from California State University at Los Angeles.
Not long after they were married, the couple relocated to Dallas, although nobody is quite sure why. They didn't know anyone here. Ron had no employment lined up. "They just picked Dallas," Ware says.
Rather than enter the legal profession, Davis went to work for the city as an accountant in 1982 and several years later moved to code enforcement.
Family friends say Ron was always politically minded, but it wasn't until after he left his city job in the early 1990s that he began emerging as a visible activist.
He landed a position on a county advisory board on juvenile justice issues and formed several groups that received government grants to deal with youth crime. Davis also began emerging as a leader with the Dallas NAACP and was elected to its executive board. The association was making waves in the late 1990s under then-president Lee Alcorn, who had a high profile in several protests at DISD board meetings. The protests, which sometimes ended in scuffles, gathered a lot of publicity.
Friends and relatives say they became accustomed to seeing Davis on television, usually right behind Alcorn or Price, or leading news conferences on his own.
In 1999, national NAACP officials suspended Alcorn, Price and Davis after complaints about irregularities in a local association election. It was a multi-chaptered saga in which Davis, in a newsworthy and highly contentious move, incorporated a new NAACP chapter at his house. Neither Alcorn, who Davis' children say was a frequent visitor at their home, nor Price, who also would stop by, returned phone calls seeking comment on Davis and his career.
From the time Ron Davis left his city job, Ronnie and Autumn say, they were never certain what their father did for a living. He would go to civic meetings, and the family would attend NAACP banquets. But there was no regular job. "All he would do from about the time I was in eighth grade was hang around the house with the stock channel on and trade," Ronnie says.
"He always told us that he traded stock. He was like a day-trader...a financial adviser to different people," Autumn says.
"He had some kind of nonprofit foundation he was buying real estate through," says Ozzie Brewer, the neighbor, who is in the business of buying houses, making repairs and selling them.
Brewer recalls Davis and a young woman looking at a house of his, with an eye to invest. "I know at the time he was day-trading the stock market; we'd talked about some stocks. When I told him he could make about $25,000 on the deal, she told him, 'You don't want to mess with that. You could make $30,000 in two hours on your computer.'"