Officer Details Suspect's Confession in Klaas Case : Courts: Detective testifies that Richard Davis said he strangled the girl to avoid imprisonment for kidnaping.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard Allen Davis said he abducted Polly Klaas during a drug-induced haze and strangled her to "cover his tracks" because he knew a kidnaping conviction would land him back in state prison, according to dramatic testimony presented by a Petaluma police detective Thursday.

Sgt. Mike Meese, who interviewed Davis after his arrest in December, said Davis told him he snatched Polly at random after drinking two quarts of beer and smoking a marijuana cigarette Davis believes was laced with PCP.

Stoned and unsure what to do once he had the girl in his car, Davis said he stopped on a remote private road to think, stashing Polly--whom he said he had untied--on a wooded slope nearby. A short time later, two sheriff's deputies questioned Davis after a homeowner reported him trespassing, and Davis said he was surprised that Polly had not run down the hill and blown his cover.

Instead, the deputies--unaware of the kidnaping--helped Davis free his car from a ditch and ordered him to leave the area. Davis said he returned 30 minutes later to retrieve Polly and drove to Cloverdale, stopping near an abandoned lumber mill. Soon after, he said, he used a strip of cloth to strangle Polly and tossed her body in some berry bushes.

At times during his interview, Davis seemed remorseful, Meese said, and once became tearful. But when the detective patted him on the shoulder, Davis said: "You don't got to show me no consideration or no respect. I know I'm a piece of. . . . "

Wednesday's testimony marked the first public account of Davis' confession, revealing details of what might have happened to 12-year-old Polly after she was taken from her bedroom at knifepoint during a sleep-over with two friends last October.

The testimony came on the third day of a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to place Davis, 39, on trial for Polly's death. Davis is charged with nine criminal counts and could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Among the charges is one accusing Davis of attempting to commit a lewd act on a child. Davis told Meese he did not believe he tried to assault Polly but admitted he was "hazy" on the matter. A condom was found where Davis said he stashed Polly in the woods, and witnesses who examined her body said her skirt had been pulled up. Scientific tests were inconclusive.

Outside the courtroom, Polly's grandfather called the bulk of Davis' confession "garbage" and the fabrication of a "psychopath." Joe Klaas said Polly would never have remained silent in the woods, awaiting the return of her abductor.

"I don't believe for a second that Polly was alive on that hillside," Klaas said. "He knew somebody would come along and so he killed her to get rid of her quick."

Police have also expressed doubts about that aspect of Davis' story, but the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Jacobs, did not reveal his theory about what really happened.

Jacobs did, however, challenge Davis' assertion that drugs had made him spontaneously kidnap Polly. Testimony presented this week showed that Polly and her two girlfriends were tied up with carefully cut strips of fabric brought into the Klaas home, and that a cloth hood was made and used to cover Polly's head.

Davis gave his confession Dec. 4, shortly after his arrest on an Indian reservation in Mendocino County. Recalling the events of Oct. 1, he told Meese he got a pass from the halfway house where he lived in San Mateo and drove to Petaluma, intending to see his mother.

When he could not find his mother's address in the Petaluma phone book, Davis said, he went to a park, drank some beer and bought a joint from some peddlers. After smoking the joint, he said, "things got fuzzy and hazy," and he somehow wound up in Polly's house. The next thing he knew, Davis said, he was driving down the road with Polly tied up in the car.

After his encounter with the deputies, Davis said he drove north on U.S. 101 and stopped at a gas station, where Polly used the restroom. At one point, he said, he was passed by sheriff's deputies who looked in his Pinto but apparently did not see Polly on the front seat.

Once in Cloverdale, Davis said, he pondered how to get out of his fix. "I figured, well, I gotta do something (to avoid returning to prison). . . . The only thing I had to do was get rid of her."

Davis said Polly died quickly and did not suffer. He said he strangled her because he knew that method caused victims to pass out quickly, a fact he learned after he once tried to hang himself in jail.

After covering Polly's body with a piece of plywood, Davis said, he returned to San Mateo and shaved his beard. When a composite sketch of the kidnaping suspect was released in the days that followed, Davis said he was surprised his parole officer did not connect it with him.

In other testimony Thursday, a Sonoma County pathologist said pieces of rope and cloth found in Polly's hair indicated that she had been strangled. A.J. Chapman also said that Polly's badly decomposed body was found fully clothed but that there were numerous tears on her skirt, shirt and underpants--tears that might have been caused by animals.

Judge Robert P. Dale said he would make a ruling today.

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