Friends Recall Polly’s Abduction : Courts: In preliminary hearing for Richard Allen Davis, two girls tell how a bearded intruder tied them up and hauled their schoolmate away.
Two schoolmates of Polly Klaas described in frightening detail Tuesday how a bearded stranger with a knife abducted their friend from her Petaluma bedroom, turning a giggly sleep-over into a nightmare that ended two months later when Polly’s body was found.
Composed but clutching stuffed animals, the 12-year-old girls recalled for a Municipal Court judge how an evening of ice cream, board games and dress-up turned bizarre and ultimately terrifying when the intruder tied them up and then hauled a whimpering Polly away.
“At first, I assumed that it was some kind of a trick or practical joke,” Kate McLean said. But gradually, as she lay face-down on the floor, her wrists tightly tied, her mouth gagged and her eyes blinded by two pillow cases over her head, “I didn’t find it too funny. I found it scary.”
The testimony from McLean and Gillian Pelham marked the opening of a preliminary hearing for Richard Allen Davis, 39, who is charged with the kidnaping and murder of Polly last October. McLean said she could not positively identify Davis as the intruder but believes it was him. Pelham testified that Davis was definitely the man who took Polly.
Prosecutors plan to call two dozen witnesses over the next few days in their effort to persuade Sonoma County Municipal Judge Robert P. Dale that Davis, a repeat felon who committed his first crime at age 12, should be bound over for trial. If convicted, Davis could face the death penalty.
Polly’s abduction galvanized her hometown, sparking a massive grass-roots search that dramatically altered the standard approach to missing child cases. The circumstances of her kidnaping--she was snatched from her own bedroom while her mother slept down the hall--touched a nerve with millions of Americans gripped by mounting fear of crime.
Davis, a recent parolee, was arrested two months after Polly’s disappearance. On the night of her kidnaping, he talked his way past two Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies while Polly, perhaps still alive, was stashed nearby in the woods. It was only later--when items linked to the child were found near the scene of the deputies’ encounter with Davis--that he became a suspect and, according to the FBI, confessed.
Tuesday’s testimony came in a heavily guarded courtroom crowded with Polly’s relatives and their supporters, many of whom wore buttons bearing a picture of her smiling face.
According to Polly’s friends, plans for the Oct. 1 sleep-over were made over the lunch hour at Petaluma Junior High. At the Klaas home that night, the girls played board games and, preparing for Halloween, tried on various costumes, including Mickey Mouse ears and deer antlers. In an eerie twist, Polly also applied white makeup and black eye shadow to make herself “look like a dead person,” McLean recalled.
As the hour grew late, the girls decided to prepare for bed. When Polly opened her bedroom door to fetch sleeping bags, she found a stranger holding a knife and duffel bag standing in the hall. Marching into the bedroom, “he said not to scream or he’d cut our throats,” Pelham recalled.
As the intruder tied up the seventh-graders with strips of cloth and electrical cords, Polly began to cry. Using a calm and comforting voice, the round-faced man with thick, graying hair insisted repeatedly that he would not hurt the girls, and asked where the valuables were kept, Pelham testified. Then, she said, he left with Polly and “told us to count to 1,000 and that when we were done Polly would be back.”
Also testifying Tuesday were Polly’s parents, Eve Nichol and Marc Klaas, and a series of police and FBI witnesses.
Nichol, sleeping in another bedroom with her younger daughter on the night that Polly disappeared, recalled that it was a warm evening and several windows were left open. A back door might also have been left open by Polly, who earlier had retrieved a vacuum cleaner from a rear porch, Nichol said.
Klaas has made the fight for tougher sentences and the search for missing children his full-time mission. When he took the stand, Davis--who had kept his gaze pointed down at the defense table during the girls’ testimony--looked directly at the grieving father, who shot back a cold stare.
“I hate Richard Allen Davis,” Klaas said later, “but I don’t put a lot of energy into thinking about him. He’s a small man, a very, very small man.”
Still to testify are coroner’s investigators who may shed new light on the circumstances of Polly’s death. A report released Tuesday said the likely cause was strangulation, but no firm conclusion could be drawn because of the body’s advanced decomposition.
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