Forget Oprah: A More Famous Trial That Took Over Amarillo
Remember Oprah? Who doesn't. It was a national media storm.
However....there was one trial that took over an Amarillo courthouse that was bigger than Oprah and the Cattlemen.
It was a trial of money, murder, mayhem in a mansion, and an oil tycoon no one could touch.
The story starts in Forth Worth, with oil tycoon and businessman Cullen Davis. Cullen was one of three sons of Kenneth "Stinky" Davis, who founded KenDavis Industries and in his death left each of his sons 1/3 of his estate. However, each son had their own business savvy and that included Cullen Davis. Davis was a very wealthy man. His estimated worth was over $500 million dollars. That was 1970s money.
Cullen Davis married his second wife Priscilla Childers in August of 1968
In 1972 Davis built an immaculate $6 million mansion, named Stonegate Mansion. It had 5 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, the master bedroom was bigger than most houses, and the home had an indoor pool.
Cullen and Davis along with her children moved into this palace. Not long after the home was built the couple separated in 1974, and a judge awarded Childers the right to live in the home through the divorce proceedings, she was awarded quite a bit of spousal support. However, they never made it to the divorce proceedings.
At the time of their separation, Childers was dating Stan Farr, a former TCU basketball star and he was living with her in the mansion along with her children.
On August 2, 1976, someone came into Stonegate Mansion. While in the home, 12-year-old Andrea Wilborn was murdered. Andrea was home alone at the time of her murder. Upon returning home Childers and Stan Farr were also shot. Friends of Childers, Beverly Bass, and boyfriend Gus Garvel drove up to the house as Childers was running from the home trying to get away from the intruder/murderer. Garvel was shot by the intruder. The shot resulted in paralyzation.
Pricilla Childers identified Cullen Davis as the murderer. She said her soon-to-be ex-husband shot her and her boyfriend Scott. She told the police Davis was wearing a wig.
Here's where Amarillo comes into this story of murder, money, and mayhem in the mansion.
Cullen Davis was arrested and charged with murder but was only tried for the murder of Childers daughter Andrea. Davis immediately hired one of Texas' most famous defense attorneys, Richard "Racehorse" Haynes.
Because it was such a high-profile case and due to jury misconduct in Fort Worth, a change of venue was requested and that venue was the Yellow City itself, Amarillo.
They wanted to make sure they could find an impartial jury and it was decided that Amarillo was the place.
Amarillo Judge George Dowlen presided over the 1977 case against Davis.
The trial began, and Haynes defended his client suggesting that it was Priscilla and her friend who concocted a plan to blame Davis for the murders. It was suggested that Stan Farr has unsavory acquaintances and they could have murdered Andrea and Stan and shot Priscilla and Garvel. Everything to point the murder away from Davis.
The evidence was all circumstantial and only the witness testimony of Beverly Bass, Gus Garvel and Priscilla Childers Davis. No gun, no wig, no fingerprints. No real evidence.
Cullen had an alibi, he was home asleep with his girlfriend, Karen Master (and future third wife), who had said she saw him in bed with her, even though she had told police earlier in the investigation that she had taken a sleeping pill and couldn't be sure.
However, Haynes' defense worked, and only after 4-hours of jury deliberation in a jury room in the Potter County Annex, Cullen Davis was found not guilty of the murder of Andrea Wilborn.
Davis has become somewhat of a huge celebrity. He had fans, and he was even allowed to talk and speak with some and sign autographs during the trial. It became one of the biggest trials in Texas and the whole country at the time.
Not long after the verdict, and the continuation of a nasty divorce, Davis was once again charged and was heading back to court. This wouldn't be the last time Davis was in a courtroom, but it would be the last time in Amarillo.
The trial put Amarillo on the map in the 1970s.