CLINTON, Ark. — The state wants to try Darrell Samuel Davis for the slayings of four members of his family and an ex-police officer, but the trial — expected in May or June — would be an unusual case.
Mr. Davis, a diagnosed schizophrenic, confessed to the killings shortly after they were committed 30 years ago, but he was found to be mentally incapable of aiding in his defense. He was sent to the state mental hospital in Little Rock, where he has been held since 1974.
His case never went to trial.
But now, after extensive therapy and new drugs, psychiatrists say he is sane enough to be tried. Lawyers involved in the case refused direct comment because of a gag order, but all agreed that this might be the longest delay in the adjudication of such a felony crime.
Hearings set for early April here, where he shot members of his family, and in Harrison, where he killed the retired police officer, will determine whether Mr. Davis will be tried on charges of first-degree murder.
Some residents here fear that he might be found sane now, but insane at the time of the murders and, thus, be released back into society.
Carroll D. Evans, chief investigator of the case for the Arkansas State Police in 1974, who has retired, would not comment on the facts, although he led the investigation at the time and his long-stored files are sure to be used by prosecutors.
Mr. Evans told The Washington Times yesterday that some in this small rural county are wary that Mr. Davis might be released and seek revenge.
He said there were “rumors” of a “hit list” that Mr. Davis had when he was arrested, and some who live around the area fear that they might be on the list and would be in danger.
“I’ve heard about the alleged hit list,” Mr. Evans said, “but honestly I haven’t seen it.
“I don’t know many people who know anything about this case who believe he should be set free,” he said.
Mr. Evans said he understands that new medicines can alleviate some criminal motivation and behavior, but added, “What if he didn’t take his pills?”
On Dec. 16, 1974, police say Mr. Davis bought a .38-caliber pistol and used it to shoot his mother and father. He then ran across a field, police said, and shot his grandfather and shot and stabbed an uncle.
All four died immediately, investigators said.
According to police records, he then drove north to Harrison where he encountered a former state patrolman at a motel and fatally shot him. The death of Bill Martin, the retired state cop, was seen as a revenge killing because Mr. Martin once had arrested Mr. Davis on an alcohol-related charge.
Charles H. Mallory, a forensic psychologist at the State Hospital in Little Rock, advised the two judges involved in the case that Mr. Davis could assist in his own defense. He credited new antipsychotic medication and “renewed contact with family members” for the defendant’s improved mental state.
Pretrial hearings are set for early April in both counties.