Charles William Davis, Jr. was a serial killer and rapist active in the Baltimore, Maryland, area in the late 1970s. He was given three life imprisonment sentences for the murders of three women.
Davis was born in 1947, the son of Charles William Sr., a police lieutenant. Not much is known about his personal history other than he was married and with a son, until divorcing and losing custody of the latter. He worked as an electrician and security guard in the Baltimore area, and was a volunteer, at some point holding the title of assistant chief of the Baltimore Rescue Squad volunteer headquarters. He was also training to become a medical technician at a local hospital, at the time. After his divorce, he briefly lived with a fiancée, fellow volunteer and single mother Bonnie Kellner. Reportedly, both he and Kellner knew a great deal of police officers due to their volunteering.
Rapes and Murders
In late 1974, Davis embarked on a rape-murder spree, starting when he attempted to kill an unnamed 23-year-old woman who got involved in a roadside accident, and to whom he offered his "help". She was dragged in nearby woods, raped, and almost strangled to death. Davis' first successful murder occurred on September 1975, when he murdered Lydia Norman, a 16-year-old girl he met through a common acquaintance. Norman had refused to have sex with Davis, prompting the latter to strangle her to death.
On New Year's Eve, he resolved scaring off a social worker who, according to him, had caused him to lose custody of his son. He lured her out of the nightclub she was in by telling a doorman her car was blocking his, then pushed her in the car and drove off. Ironically, he realized the woman in his car was not the social worker, but 24-year-old Kathleen Cook, daughter-in-law of a State Police lieutenant colonel. Upon hearing Davis' story, Cook started laughing at him, at which point he grew angry, drove to a secluded spot, and raped her. Afterwards, she made him even more furious by telling him: "I hope that makes you feel like a man", and attempting to go away. Pulling out his .38-caliber revolver, Davis shot her four times in the chest, then socked her when she tried to blow the horn of his car. Later, due to his volunteering and training, he was present at St. Agnes Hospital when Cooke's body was brought there.
On August 24, 1976, 23-year-old Peggy Pumpian was raped, stabbed, mutilated, and shot five times along Interstate 95. Davis had presumably attacked her after she asked him for directions. Shortly afterwards, police came to the conclusion that the same man was responsible for the Cooke and Pumpian murders, since ballistics tests confirmed the same gun was used in both killings. They had also come to suspect Davis, though they were unable to make a case against him. On September 3, Davis raped an anonymous 21-year-old woman who had run out of gas on I-95. Again, he had approached his victim under the pretext of assisting her. On February 23, 1977, he abducted 24-year-old pregnant woman named Carol Willingham from the Village of Cross Keys, brought her to an Edgeville Avenue wooded area, raped her, and robbed her of her cash and credit cards. Both victims survived.
Arrest, Trial, and Incarceration
By April 1977, for unspecified reasons, Davis was no longer a volunteer. In May of the same year, he had found work as a truck driver. Charged with the September 3 rape, he was acquitted after passing a police-administered polygraph test. Despite this, investigators found similarities between the assault and the last two murders, and obtained an arrest warrant for him. However, when they showed up at his home in order to execute the warrant, he was gone. An informant later told the authorities of Davis' whereabouts. He had relocated to Reno, Nevada, living in his own car with 22-year-old Diane Hope Crosby, another fiancée, and working as an ambulance service operator.
Davis was arrested by Maryland State troopers and charged with the murders of Cook (which he had confessed) and Pumpian. He was also charged with the September 3 and February 23 assault, and a firearm violation. Found guilty of the two murders in April 1978, he was given two life imprisonment sentences. A third was eventually added after he was also convicted of the 1975 murder of Lydia Norman, which he had confessed. Charges were dropped concerning the November 2, 1974 assault, since the victim preferred to not appear in court. Davis is currently incarcerated, he will be eligible for parole once 48 years have passed since his imprisonment. In the early 80s, he was briefly interviewed by FBI profiler John Douglas.
Davis targeted Caucasian women and girls aged 16-24-years old. His method of approach usually involved feigning to assist his victims in some way (such as during a car accident, or while they asked for directions...). This is also known as the "con" approach. His murders were spur-of-the-moment acts, since he was primarily interested in the rape aspect of his crimes. He usually killed his victims if they enraged him, challenging his control, such as in Lydia Norman's and Kathleen Cook's cases. Due to the spontaneous nature of the murders, he committed them in a variety of ways: by strangulation, by shooting with a .38-caliber revolver, and by stabbing.
Perhaps what thrilled Davis the most (and is thus part of the signature element rather than the M.O.) was to make anonymous calls to emergency services, reporting his own assaults, and getting on the crime scenes as a rescue squad volunteer, retrieving the bodies he himself had dumped.
A brief interview with Davis (recounted in Mindhunter) was sufficient to John Douglas, who knew nothing of him or his crimes at the time, to profile the man he had before him. Douglas suggested Davis was a police buff, who would have liked to work in a position of power and authority, instead of settling for a job which was below his capabilities. He had problems relating to women, and his crimes were prompted by his frustration over the lack of control he had on his life. At the time of his first murder, he was struggling with the woman he lived with, was suffering financial difficulties, and was drinking heavily. He substantially took out on strangers the anger he felt for the woman in his life.
Also, Douglas went as far as to deduce that the last woman he murdered (possibly Peggy Pumpian, though it is not specified) was not like the others. She had revealed to him that her husband was sick, close to death. Feeling pity for her, he allowed her to get dressed after the assault. At that point, he didn't want to kill her anymore, but nonetheless, in the end, he did it. Feeling bad at what he'd done, he covered her head, then took a photo of her family from her wallet, and later placed it on his grave.
All the following were attacked and killed in the Baltimore area.
- November 2, 1974: Unnamed 23-year-old woman (raped and strangled; survived)
- September 11: Near BWI airport: Lydia V. Norman, 16 (strangled)
- December 31: Outside a nightclub on Route 40 West: Kathleen Diane Cook, 24 (raped, beaten, and shot four times in the chest)
- August 24: Along I-95: Peggy Ellen Pumpian, 23 (raped, stabbed, mutilated, and shot five times)
- September 3: Along I-95, Howard County: Unnamed 21-year-old woman (raped)
- February 23, 1977: Edgehill Avenue, Baltimore: Carol Willingham, 24 (abducted, raped, and robbed)
On Criminal Minds
- Season Nine:
- "Mr. & Mrs. Anderson" - While Davis was never directly referenced in the show, he appears to have been a source of inspiration for the episode's main unsub, Alan Anderson - Both are serial killers and rapists who had jobs as truck drivers, also had jobs involving a rescue vehicle (an ambulance in Davis' case, a tow-truck in Anderson's), had strained relationships with their wives, felt emasculated by women which prompted them to target them, lured their victims by feigning to help them, and killed them by strangling or stabbing them (though Davis also shot some).
- Murderpedia's article on Davis
- The Top 10 Murderers From Body-more, Murder-land | Crime Traveller
- Man, 29, Charged in Two Murders - The Washington Post
- 06 Sep 1977, 1 - The Baltimore Sun at Newspapers.com
- 06 Sep 1977, 4 - The Baltimore Sun at Newspapers.com
- 07 Sep 1977, 25 - The Baltimore Sun at Newspapers.com
- 07 Sep 1977, 26 - The Baltimore Sun at Newspapers.com
- 07 Sep 1977, Page 18 - The Morning Herald at Newspapers.com
- 09 Sep 1977, Page 26 - Reno Gazette-Journal at Newspapers.com
- 12 Apr 1978, 1 - The Evening Sun at Newspapers.com
- 12 Apr 1978, 2 - The Evening Sun at Newspapers.com
- 09 Jan 1980, 28 - The Baltimore Sun at Newspapers.com
- 29 Jan 1980, 44 - The Baltimore Sun at Newspapers.com
- Maryland DOC Inmate Locator
- Mindhunter by John E. Douglas. Simon & Schuster adult publishing group ISBN 9780671528904