Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Slaughter of Innocence


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Wanted Poster

She was anyone's little girl. She could have been yours, or mine. She had long, dark hair, which cascaded down the sides of her head and her friendly face would one day become a familiar sight to millions of Americans. Her name was Polly Klaas, a quiet, unassuming 12-year old who lived a comfortable life in Petaluma, California. Like everyone, Polly had her own dreams and plans for the future. On a peaceful night, on October 1, 1993, she was in her own bedroom. She invited two friends over for their very first slumber party and all three girls were immersed in the joy and freedom of being away from their parents for a few hours. Until that awful moment when evil made its way into Polly's life. At about 10 that evening, an intruder, high on booze and armed with a knife, crawled through an open bedroom window and within minutes, two of the girls were tied up and left writhing in terror on the bedroom floor. Polly was abducted and carried off into the night, the victim of a cowardly killer whose own life was a twisted maze of hate and violence.

The body of little Polly Klass was found two months later on December 4, 1993. Her confessed killer, Richard Allen Davis, provided information that eventually led police to her body. She had been brutally raped and strangled. One lifetime may not be enough to recover from the horror her parents endured during this ordeal (1). On August 5, 1996, a San Jose jury sentenced a smirking and unrepentant Davis to death. His rap sheet was a pathetic litany of major and minor offenses that include robbery, burglary, assault, rape and kidnapping that stretched back 26 years(2). But Davis was not a pedophile. Although he had never been arrested for child molestation, he can be characterized as a situational child molester.

It is important to understand the differences between pedophiles and molesters. Pedophilia, which is a psychological disorder, is a distinct sexual preference for pre-pubescent children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 111-R), which is published by the American Psychological Association, supplies this definition of pedophilia: "recurrent, intense, sexual urges and sexual arousing fantasies of at least six months duration involving sexual activity with a pre-pubescent child" (DSM, V.3, 1987). Generally, this means the target of the fantasy will typically be less than 12 years old. Notice the definition does not require the person to actually engage in a sexual act. Pedophilia is a psychological disorder that does not require, and usually does not involve, a criminal act. The pedophile might keep his desires a secret. He may never go public or share his fantasies with anyone. At times, they will even marry a single mother to gain or continue access to her children. Pedophiles can be very determined and single-minded in their efforts to stay close to children. Maintaining access to children at all costs is one of the defining trademarks of pedophilia, which will be discussed later. Child molesters, however, can have many different motivations for their crimes. And those motives, surprisingly, are often not of a sexual origin.


(1) Polly's parents later established the Polly Klaas Foundation, an organization that provides information and support in cases of child abduction.

(2) To see Richard Davis' complete rap sheet, see The San Francisco Chronicle which published it on August 6, 1996

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