Saturday, October 1, 2022 Oct 1, 2022
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PEOPLE ’They Say Time Heals, But It Doesn’t”

After the "Texas Justice" miniseries, Priscilla Davis is mad all over again.

TWENTY YEARS AGO, she was known affectionately as “Rich Bitch” for her gold necklace that spelled out the words in diamonds. Those were the days when Priscilla Davis could walk into any shop on Rodeo Drive and be greeted by name. After all, she was one of the wealthiest women in America, married to Fort Worth millionaire Cul-len Davis, and word of her shopping sprees preceded her.

Today, Priscilla says, any necklace representing her life wouldn’t be festooned with diamonds-and, she adds with a laugh, it would probably read, “Poverty Sucks.” Boom or bust, Priscilla Davis never forgets to pack her sense of humor.

But Priscilla is not laughing at the ABC miniseries about her life, “Texas Justice,” which aired this February. The highly publicized mini-series, which featured Heather Locklear as Priscilla, was based on author Gary Cartwright’s book Blood Will Tell (recently re-released under the “Texas Justice” title).

“Texas Justice” fold one version-definitely not Priscilla’s-of the August 1976 murders at the Davis mansion on Mockingbird Lane in Fort Worth. Since that night, Priscilla’s story has never changed: She has always maintained that her estranged husband, Cullen Davis, was the man in the black turtleneck who murdered her 12-year-old daughter, Andrea Wilborn, home alone that night. Cullen then waited, she says, until she got home, shot her pointhlank in the chest, pumped four bullets into her boyfriend, Stan Fan”, killing him, and then shot a friend, Gus Gavrel, who walked into the bloody scene in progress. That night three eyewitnesses-Priscilla, Gavrel, and his girlfriend, Beverly Bass-escaped to tell three different groups of listeners the same story: Cullen was the killer.

But the jury didn’t buy it. Cullen Davis, now 61, walked away a free man after a multi-million dollar defense team starring Houston attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes secured an acquittal.

Cullen was cleared, and in the process, Priscilla was smeared. Nearly 20 years after the Davis mansion murders, most people who think of Priscilla Davis remember her infamous repuration, well publicized by Cullen’s defense attorneys. Racehorse Haynes’ tactic worked brilliantly: Putting an exciting, wild young woman on trial took the primary focus oft* of the murder of a child. The miniseries only served to enhance what Priscilla doggedly claims is a mostly fictional, super-sensational account of her taste for booze, drugs, and urban cowboys.

Every day of her life, Priscilla remembers what the focus of that trial should have been: the 12-year-old child who was murdered, not what Priscilla Davis did or did not do in her “active” social life.

“They say time heals, but it doesn’t,” Priscilla says. “You just team how to hide it.”

OVER THE YEARS, PRISCILLA HAS REPEAT-edly tried to sell her story to raise money and to seek justice for her daughters murder. So far, she has been unsuccessful, largely because publishing companies and movie producers have feared libel suits from Cullen Davis, who is an innocent man in the eyes of the law.

But her savvy new lawyer, Cynthia Solls, thinks the miniseries may finally help Priscilla tell her story her way. Priscilla and Soils believe that none of the five books written on the subject got it right-and they’re particularly incensed about the miniseries.

On Priscilla’s behalf, Soils has hired California attorney Ed McPherson to file a lawsuit against Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment, claiming that “Texas Justice” was slanderous and libelous and portrayed Priscilla in a false light. She is seeking a large settlement hut won’t disclose the exact amount. Furthermore, Soils says, the miniseries has dredged up grief and anger that Priscilla was able-at least partially- to bury for 19 years.

“Priscilla is now in weekly counseling to assist her in re-dealing with the stress and attention and also with the explanation of these affairs to her 11-year-old granddaughter who lives with her.” Soils says.

With the new lawsuit, Soils and Priscilla hope to prove once and for all that Priscilla was a victim that night, a mother who lost her baby girl, rather than the money-grubbing sex symbol with an endless wardrobe of miniskirts portrayed by the voluptuous Locklear. Thanks to the miniseries, Priscilla says, she is once again defending herself. “Now I have people question what I say with, ’Well, the movie said so-and-so.’ I’m sick of it,” Priscilla says.

The world may never know who was the man in the black turtleneck, but one fact is clear: At 53, Priscilla Davis has survived a lion’s share of tragedy. Every day, she says, something happens to remind her of Andrea, who would be 31 this spring. Priscilla thinks of her youngest daughter, a sweet-natured child, forever a 12-year-old in a mother’s mind’s eye.

The renewed stress, anger, and grief, she says, keep her up at night as memorie race through her head. In those sleepless hours, she deals with the anger by going through the miniseries scene by scene and taking notes of every alleged inaccuracy.

Flipping through pages of yellow legal paper, Priscilla rattles off what she says Hollywood got wrong. A few of her many examples;

‧ A scene in a motel room featured Locklear in a sexy black teddy, smearing herself with champagne for Peter Strauss, who played the role at Cullen Davis. Suddenly, angry spouses and photographers burst in to document the heat of the moment. Not even close to the truth, Priscilla says. “There were never any pictures of Cullen and I taken in bed in a hotel room,” she says. “We were both already separated and Jack [Priscilla s husband] and Sandra [Cullen’s wife] had filed for divorce. We had come back from Acapulco after Christmas, I was sick. There was nothing sexy going on at the time. I was in the bathroom fully clothed, and Cullen was asleep on one of the beds when Sandra burst in on us with a photographer and tear gas.”

The movie showed Cullen and Priscilla gleefully running off to get married after the reading of Cullen’s father’s will, when he supposedly learned of his inheritance. Priscilla says that the Davis brothers (three of them, though the movie showed only two) had actually received their inheritance years before to avoid taxes. “We were married on the day Mr. Davis died,” she says. “The wedding had already been scheduled for that day, and I called it off. Then that evening, we decided that since the days ahead were going to be so difficult, we would go ahead and get married. We had a very quiet ceremony at the Methodist church chapel. Cullen’s younger brother. Bill, and his fiancée were with us.”

In one scene, Cullen had killed a kitten belonging to Priscilla’s oldest daughte, Dee, in order to reach her a lesson about using the security alarm. “They left out the fact that he also broke Dee’s nose that night,” Priscilla says. “They left out much of the abuse that went on during our marriage. I used to tell Cullen, ’If you don’t stop this, you’re going to kill me.’”

Some of the movie’s sins were those of omission, says Priscilla. Such as leaving out the widely reported account that Cullen settled civil suits out of court with Stan Farr’s children and with Gus Gavrel, allegedly in exchange for Gavrel’s promise not to testify against Cullen in any future legal matters.

Priscilla also resents being generally portrayed as “having just fallen off the turnip truck.” She met Cullen at Colonial Gountry Club in Fort Worth where she and Cullen were both members.

Considering all she’s been through, you might expect Priscilla to be an embittered, broken woman. But the woman who had fight enough to run for help after being shot in the chest 19 years ago plans to stand up and fight again- this time against Hollywood.

Meanwhile, Priscilla’s life bears no resemblance to that of the wealthy beauty left shivering alone in the dark at the end of the miniseries. In 1979, Priscilla’s $2.8 million divorce settlement provided for a handsome lifestyle with annual investment income in the $Z00,000-pIus range. After a series of financial setbacks, however, she has sealed down her lifestyle considerably, moving from mansion status to relatively middle-class dwellings in a Highland Park apartment complex. The October 1989 stock market crash took a serious chunk out of Priscilla’s net worth. And investments in limited partnerships that eventually went bankrupt knocked her finances down a few more notches.

Then there are the thousands and thousands of dollars paid to lawyers over the years in her civil court battles against Cullen Davis and now against Hollywood producers.

No more Rodeo Drive couture. No more $15,000 outfits or brand new Excaliburs. These days, you’re more likely to see Priscilla Davis rattling along in her 10-year old Cadillac, or shopping at Toys “R” Us with her 11-year-old namesake. Priscilla is grandmother of a bright-eyed little Priscilla Davis, a fifth-grader who keeps Priscilla running from ballet lessons to orchestra to Eckerd’s one recent early morning for alum and Epsom salts needed to finish a science project.

Little Priscilla’s biological mother is Dee Davis, who has struggled her way off of drugs and now lives in Fort Worth. Priscilla has raised her granddaughter since she was 5 days old and in every sense of the word is “mother.” When duty calls, she doubles as “father.” Each October when the father’s group at Bradfield Elementary calls, Priscilla throws on her Bradfield T-shirt and heads for the Pumpkin Patch, the school’s annual fund-raiser. She spends the day selling pumpkins side-by-side with the dads.

“My friends say, ’I don’t know how you do it,’ ” but I just do it because Priscilla is everything to me,” Priscilla says. “Yes, I’ve had to scale back my lifestyle, but the important thing is Priscilla, being able to take care of her. I’m concerned about her college.”

Once a fixture on the Dallas nightclub circuit, Priscilla’s appearances are few these days. Her night life is now filled with reading, writing, and arithmetic- and teaching little Priscilla not to make the mistakes in life that she did.

“I tell Priscilla that the most important thing is to get a good education. My problem is I was married all my life, and I didn’t pursue a field,” Priscilla says. “1 would start to go into real estate and they would say, ’You don’t need to do that.’ I allowed myself to be ruled by the men in my life. They said, ’Be a housewife. Be a bimbo. Go out and play tennis every day at the country club.’ And I did. There’s nothing wrong with playing tennis, but a woman needs some type of education to fall back on.”

Today Priscilla is doing everything she can to make sure that little Priscilla has a strong foundation. She admits that she’s a better grandmother than she was a mother.

“I don’t really worry about dying, but leaving Priscilla alone scares me. I just try to think positively about it because there is no sense in dwelling on it,” Priscilla says.

“Priscilla says to me, ’I’ll be glad when I’m grown and I’ll know what I want to do.’ And I tell her, ’No you won’t. When you grow up and have someone depending on you, that’s when you don’t know what you are going to do.”’