A Mystifying Murder And the Del Mar Doc — (The San Diego Reader)

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The San Diego Reader

By Celia Storey

Oct. 15, 1998

‘I was hoping it would stay away from San Diego,” she said, compressing her meaty lips and furrowing her broad fore-head. She had not expected Californian curiosity to find her here, crammed with other unhappy persons into the unsteady first pew of Pulaski County’s Sixth Circuit courtroom in Little Rock, Arkansas.

But in a blink of her penetrating, well-made-up eyes, Dr. Kimberly Ann Davis took her loss of sanctuary in stride and turned her attention to surviving the capital murder charge still pending against her. She’d already endured a mistrial. On October 2, after more than 11 hours of deliberations, seven men and five women had hung 10-2 in favor of acquitting her in the shooting death of her wealthy ex-boyfriend, William Heard III.

Chains clinked and the gray-haired bailiff led in a shuffling string of seven prisoners in orange jumpsuits, one of whom ducked and grinned stupidly, waving to his family in the pew behind hers. By comparison, the collected Davis looked positively professional.

Her heavy face remained composed as she said words she would repeat verbatim for several reporters within the quarter hour: That she was anxious to go home. That she had a private office in San Diego. That she was considering “various projects.”

Soon enough, Judge David Bogard asked prosecutor Terry Raney if she intended to retry the case. Raney declined. Davis was free to go.

Once outside on the sidewalk, she teared up before the battery of TV cameras. “In some ways I think that the system has been unfair to the Heard family,” she said, “and I feel very sad that they’ve been allowed to believe in anything but that Bill did commit suicide…

She testified on the stand that she did not kill Bill Heard.

They met at a bar in 1984 and lived together off and on through ten years, during which time Heard struggled with alcoholism, seeing therapists Davis recommended and entering treatment facilities. She prescribed tranquilizers for him beginning in 1985 and continued even after he had been diagnosed as abusing them. She testified she gave him the medicines to help him through alcohol withdrawals and to treat insomnia and gastric upset.

In 1990, Heard left Davis for Donna Baker, a raven-tressed, high-heeled single mother who, according to court testimony, broke his heart five years later by ripping off his credit cards and sleeping with another man.

Davis moved to San Diego in 1991 but continued to send him prescriptions for Paxil, a Prozac type antidepressant, through the mail. In spring of 1991, Heard gave her two gifts amounting to $75,000 to pay back taxes.

Witnesses agreed that his breakup with Donna Baker hit Heard hard in the summer of 1995. He holed up at a trailer on Sligo Plantation, his family’s peaceful hunting camp 15 miles south of Natchez, Mississippi. There, according to videotaped testimony by camp caretaker and longtime friend Jimmy Lee Ivory, a black man with an almost indecipherable Mississippi accent, he slept into the afternoon most days and seemed stressed.

Meanwhile, Davis had dropped out of her residency program at UCSD because it did not “challenge” her and the level of supervision was “infantile.” She moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to enter a residency program there.

She testified that she rushed to Natchez after work one afternoon and found Heard deeply depressed and his trailer excessively dirty. She began driving back and forth to stay with him until finally she gave up her residency at Birmingham to move into the trailer, where she cooked and cleaned.

“We had a finite agreement,” she said, that she would stay long enough to get him back on his feet but would return to San Diego at the turn of the year. After a month, though, she realized Heard’s depression was dangerous and by Christmas was convinced she should take him with her when she left.

On December 28, 1995, she drove him from Natchez to his apartment in Little Rock. Six days later she called 911 from there to report Bill Heard dead from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Prosecutor Raney argued that Davis placed the revolver to Heard’s chest and coldly pulled the trigger after realizing he had been scheming to reunite with her arch rival, Donna Baker.

At first police believed [Davis, that the death was a suicide], and Dr. Frank Peretti, the state’s pathologist who autopsied Heard, ruled the death a suicide. But when the trace evidence lab reported she had tested positive for gunshot residue and the dead man had not, they began to look twice at her statements. The position of the gun — not measured at the scene but only inferred from forensic photographs — fed suspicion. The gun was found under a baby grand piano and “three or four feet” behind and to the left of the love seat where Davis said she’d found Heard’s corpse.

Peretti reassessed the manner of death as “pending.” Later, after much debate among the state’s four pathologists, he upgraded the manner of death once more to “undetermined.” Two years later, Davis was charged…

Davis testified Heard told her he’d brought his gun to the apartment and made her promise not to look for it. She was gravely worried about his suicidal “ideation” and the gun, and that’s why she felt it imperative to get him to San Diego for treatment.


The coroner estimates Heard died sometime between 3:45 and 4:30 p.m. The only other evidence useful to establish a timeline came from people who had spoken to Bill Heard on the telephone that afternoon, including his broker, Tom Herring, who said Heard was whispering and sounded tense. “He said that she was in the other room,” Herring said.

Donna Baker also testified that Heard called her between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m., promising to call again around 6:00 p.m. after Davis was gone. He hung up the phone abruptly without saying, “I love you,” which was his habit. Instead he said, “I’ve got to go.”

Gary Lawrence of the trace evidence lab testified for the prosecution about finding an “inconclusive” amount of powder residue on Davis’s hands. But then the defense called Lawrence’s supervisor, who testified in a soft and reluctant voice that she disagreed with his interpretation of the numbers. “I would call them negative,” Lisa Sakevicius said.

That jury included a premed student, a lawyer, and four people who’d seen suicide in their families. It was a well-mannered jury, and those on the sidewalk enjoyed chatting together after the trial. They wanted to talk evidence some more. There was also the lure of TV news Betacam spotlights fixing and pinning single jurors farther down the sidewalk.

The rain began to fall in earnest and the jurors scattered, but Aliason lingered. He said the jury deadlocked because two men “knew in their hearts” that Davis was guilty and couldn’t live with letting her walk the street.