Cult-like mystery surrounds Napa shooting

Napa Valley Register/November 14, 2007

George Davis is no longer here to defend his reputation. The 62-year-old Napa man was shot and killed in April in his north Napa apartment. Alexander Taylor, 25, has been charged with Davis's murder.

But court and police records suggest Davis had a strange power over young people, and that he attempted to recruit nearly three dozen of them into a cult based on a blend of witchcraft, magic and his friendship.

According to police, Taylor -- who is being held in the county jail on $3 million bail -- admitted to investigators he shot Davis at least five times in Davis' bedroom on Redwood Road. Taylor has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting death of Davis.

Taylor has been charged with one count of murder and special allegations of great bodily harm and intentional discharge of a firearm. If found guilty, Taylor could face 25 years to life in state prison.

Taylor originally was set to go to trial in October, but the case has been reset for March 17. Napa County Superior Court Judge Ray Guadagni granted the extension so Napa County Deputy Public Defender Jess Raphael could review volumes of material related to the case.

Some of that material centers on Davis' ties to Taylor and others in their 20s.

According to transcripts of police interviews with Taylor and about a dozen others, Davis met a series of people in their late teens and 20s and explained his theories on witchcraft, including casting spells and performing magic to drive demons from their bodies and souls.

Several young people were asked to sign a "contract" with Davis, agreeing not to speak to others about witchcraft or what they did together, and granting him authority over them. The contracts called for Davis to be allowed to take physical action to remove demons from his disciples, though in police interviews, would-be members of Davis' cult said he never attempted to engage them sexually.

Napa County Deputy District Attorney Gary Van Camp, who is prosecuting Taylor, declined to comment on the case while it is in litigation.

But in a court hearing earlier this year, another prosecutor suggested the bizarre background didn't change the nature of the incident.

"It was a premeditated murder," said then-Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Boessenecker -- who was then prosecuting the case and is now a Napa County Superior Court judge.

Longtime ties

Overall, the portrait drawn by the police interviews with witnesses is that Davis and young people expressing an interest in the dark arts sought each other out, forming friendships. Subsequently, some young people told police they found Davis odd and they distanced themselves from him without incident.

That was not the case with Taylor.

Taylor was 16 when he met Davis. Taylor told investigators he was introduced to Davis through another teen. Taylor said he and Davis practiced witchcraft, and Davis began instructing him on how to cast spells. Taylor also told investigators he believed Davis could put a curse on someone.

Taylor told detectives he is schizophrenic, and that sometimes the symptoms prompt him to yell and gesture toward his personal demons. He said he used black magic in an effort to get rid of or control his rage.

He said Davis would use a crystal ball to send all the rage through his body and collect the energy.

Documents in the case contain a contract signed by Taylor in January 1999. The contract says Taylor will "obey George without question. I will take my punishments at the hands of George in silence ... and I shall hold only myself to blame for having to be punished, and I will never speak of it to anyone, including my family, ever."

According to police reports, evidence seized from Davis' apartment included a binder with information on 31 people, contained in contracts similar to the one signed by Taylor.

The reports also revealed that Davis performed rituals with Taylor and others that included "bear hugs, leg scissors done while dripping cold water on the person's chest, holding needles to the chest, tickling and dripping candle wax on their back and arms."

Several of those who participated in the rituals told police Davis asked them to strip to their waist, but no one accused him of every touching them inappropriately.

Davis maintained a friendship with Taylor into his 20s, even as others removed themselves from Taylor's sphere.

According to the police reports, on the night Davis died, Taylor left his home on West Pueblo Avenue and walked to Davis' home.

Although Taylor did not offer a motive, he told police he shot Davis at least five times, according to police. Davis' friend went to his home later that day and found Davis' body in the bedroom and notified police.

Although investigators have not publicly stated what they believe to be a motive in the case, during interviews with police, Taylor said he believed Davis sexually molested him when he was a very young child, more than a decade before he remembers meeting Davis.

Later on in the interview, Taylor also said Davis complained about his deteriorating mobility and suggested he might commit suicide, but that he did not want to die by his own hand. Taylor said Davis asked him to take his life.

Since Taylor has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, his trial will have two phases. He first will be tried by a jury that will determine if Taylor is guilty of the crime of murder. If Taylor is found guilty, the same jury will listen to more evidence to decide if he was sane at the time of the incident.

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