The Reluctant Witness

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Ronnie and Autumn say their mother had mentioned leaving Ron from time to time, but she seemed to be waiting until they finished college before making a move. In the meantime, Ronnie says, "She was passive. She'd get upset with him, make up, try to make it work, get upset and try again."

He says as he got older, he began verbally challenging his father for slights on his mother, whom he described as his "best friend...very close." His father was never physically abusive, Ronnie says, but the verbal and emotional jabs landed hard.

Reida Davis, who up until the inheritance dispute was close to her brother Ron and never very close to Sharon, sums up the Davis marriage in five words: "He treated her like dirt."

Six days before she disappeared, Sharon Davis climbed the stairs to lawyer Fred McDaniel's second-story office in DeSoto and did what she'd started to do 16 years earlier: get Ron Davis out of her life.

"We're not a storefront; we don't get a lot of walk-ins," says McDaniel. To him, Sharon Davis seemed determined. McDaniel filed the divorce papers Monday, June 11. That morning, McDaniel obtained what he called a routine temporary restraining order barring any movement in the couple's assets. A hearing was set for late the following week.

Over the years, several friends say, Sharon bore the burdens of her marriage silently to the outside world. But beginning in about 1997, she started letting one neighbor, Sandra Brewer, in on family matters.

Sharon would wander over into the cul-de-sac to Brewer's house to talk, says Brewer, who works as a lab tech. She found Sharon to be a warm, sensitive, thoroughly likable person. "She drew my father's and mother's picture. A little while back she was looking for a new church, and I took her to my church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, you know, with Reverend Tony Evans."

Brewer says as she came to know Sharon, she began letting out things that were troubling her at home: problems she had with Ron's daughter by his first marriage, jealousies toward other women, money matters. About a month before she disappeared, Brewer says, Sharon told her Ron wanted her to turn over her retirement account, which was worth about $30,000, and that she refused.

On the day before Sharon went to see the divorce lawyer, Brewer says, Sharon came over, very upset. "She asked if I'd vouch for her in court that she isn't crazy."

Brewer says she was stunned by the comment because Sharon was anything but crazy. Brewer says Sharon told her she'd come across papers that showed Ron was taking steps to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital. "She said, 'I can't live like this anymore,'" the neighbor says.

Sharon had told her before that she was going to get a divorce, Brewer says. "This time, she meant business."

Over the next week, Sharon began notifying those closest to her--her father, sister, brother, daughter, son and two friends--about her filing, and she had similar things to say to each one.

On June 9, Sharon left a message for her sister in Los Angeles, Ware says in a statement she made to Dallas police under the penalty of perjury as a member of the California bar. "At 5:04 p.m., Sharon left a message for me at my home that she had told her husband, Ronald Davis, that she had filed for divorce, that he had threatened her, and she asked that I please check on her frequently."

Ware, who made her statement to the police two weeks after Sharon disappeared, continued, "She stated that [Ron] had said to her that something might happen to her, and that their children would get over it because people get over the loss of a parent. Sharon called me a couple of days later and asked again if I would check on her every day, that [Ron] had called her a sneaky bitch."

The Observer provided Davis a copy of Ware's statement. He did not comment on its content but instead wrote back with a multi-part question. The first was, "If the Ware family truly thought the allegations were credible, why didn't any one of them or all of them advise her to temporarily leave?"

Davis' question, which not so subtly shifts the burden of replies from him to Ware, has an answer, Ware says. She says McDaniel advised her sister not to leave the house because she was seeking sole possession of it in the divorce.

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec

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