Before Polly Klaas, there was Kimber Reynolds. Different crime, same result: random murder, generating public rage of sufficient force to propel politicians.
Kimber Reynolds, as with Polly Klaas, was the kind of daughter who would make any parent proud--and, similarly, one whom workaday, law-abiding people everywhere could relate to as one of their own.
"She was the All-American girl," recalls her brother, Michael Brian Reynolds, 24, a UCLA Law School student. Kimber was 18, bright and beautiful with long blonde hair. She had worked in a Baskin-Robbins, been elected president of her high school senate, been on the varsity tennis team and gotten good grades. She was a student at the Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, but the big city isn't where she was murdered.
Like 12-year-old Polly, who was snatched from her bedroom during a slumber party in small-town Petaluma, Kimber fell victim to a habitual criminal in a presumed safety zone. She had returned to her hometown of Fresno to be a bridesmaid in a wedding. With a male friend, she had gone for dinner to a trendy restaurant--one of those Art Deco places with full windows on the street--and was getting back into her car parked just out front when two guys wheeled up on a stolen motorcycle. One grabbed for her purse.
Kimber's father, Mike Reynolds, 49, tells what happened next:
"She resisted, but not that much. It wasn't a big struggle. He pulled a .357 magnum out of his waistband, stuck it in her ear and pulled the trigger. . . . There must have been 24 witnesses. . . . They didn't even take her purse."
That was June 29 of last year. Mike Reynolds, a portrait photographer whose wife is a nurse, was awakened from a sound sleep and told that their youngest child--their only daughter--had been shot. She died 26 hours later.
What Reynolds did next was the first of his many moves that have influenced events and altered the political landscape, and ultimately could shift public policy. He went on local talk radio. "It's the toughest thing I've ever done," he recalls. But by the end of the show, an informant had phoned in the identity of the triggerman and then helped police locate him in an apartment.
The killer came out shooting. He took 10 bullets and pellets from four shotgun blasts, 52 entry wounds in all. His mother placed the body in an open casket without makeup for the wounds. "I just wanted to give his friends a message," she said. "I wanted others to know what happens when you abuse drugs, when you get involved in crime."
The 25-year-old man was described by police as a hard-core user of methamphetamine who frequently had been jailed on gun and drug charges and only two months earlier had been released from state prison after serving time for auto theft. Besides Kimber's murder, he was wanted for a series of robberies and assaults.
Says Reynolds: "When they pulled the handle on that piece of human waste, half of Fresno did high-fives."
Coincidently, Kimber's killer and Polly's accused murderer had the same last name--Davis. Joe Davis murdered Kimber. His accomplice was Douglas Walker, 27, who had a long rap sheet for narcotics and petty theft. He pleaded guilty to robbery and accessory to murder. The sentence was nine years, meaning he'll probably be out in half that time on good behavior.
"He's in an air-conditioned prison with three hots and a tub," Reynolds says. "This week, I've got to figure out how to pay my property taxes. It makes you sick."
Reynolds is the rare kind of citizen that politicians dread or relish, view as a nuisance or a boon, depending on their needs. But virtually all respect the type.
A man with the look of perpetual pain, Reynolds is articulate, energetic, committed and street smart. And he is the driving force behind a proposed ballot initiative that California voters will be reading a lot about.
Titled "Three Strikes and You're Out"--a name borrowed from a Washington state initiative that passed last month by 3 to 1--the measure is aimed at keeping violent criminals off the street. A felon's second sentence would be twice the normal time. A third conviction would result in triple time, or 25 years to life, whichever was greater.
Reynolds struck out trying to push his measure through the Assembly Public Safety Committee, one of the Legislature's last vestiges of 1970s liberalism. But state politicians have been jumping in with endorsements, especially since Polly Klaas' murder.
The Fresno father is circulating initiative petitions and has a toll-free number: 1-800-CONVICT. "We tried to get DIRTBAG," he says, "but that turned out to be a vacuum cleaner."