Despite the jailhouse suicide of a man suspected of murdering one son and chaining two others in a bedroom, prosecutors vow to forge ahead with the charges against two women, one now a widow, who lived with the man in a camouflaged desert compound near Twentynine Palms.
John “Rajohn Lord” Davis, 53, hanged himself March 9 with a bedsheet in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Morongo Basin substation jail.
An investigation into his death continues, sheriff’s officials said Friday. But a suicide note was found in the cell, and Randy Emon, San Bernardino County’s supervising deputy coroner, said the case will be ruled a suicide.
The death of Davis, who said he believed himself a surrogate of God, raises questions about the case against Davis’ wife and another woman, both awaiting trial on charges of murder, torture, child abuse and false imprisonment.
Investigators believe Davis was a domineering presence at the family’s home in an unincorporated community known as Wonder Valley. And in interviews with detectives--though he never admitted any wrongdoing--Davis insisted that his wife and the other woman had nothing to do with the treatment of his three sons.
“One thing that he did all along was that he tried to take the blame for everything,” said Rod Cortez, a San Bernardino County assistant district attorney who is handling the case. “He tried to say that it was all him, that they had nothing to do with it.”
Davis’ suicide may alter prosecution strategy, Cortez said. Prosecutors may seek men for the jury, for example, because they believe men will be less sympathetic to defense arguments that the women also were victims of Davis.
But in general, Cortez said he believes the case against Davis’ wife, Carrie Lee Davis, and another woman who lived with the family, Faye Potts, will stand up in court and will not be altered dramatically by John Davis’ suicide.
“We weren’t relying on his own admissions to prove the case against the co-defendants,” Cortez said. “We don’t anticipate this changing the prosecution.”
Questions about the case will not be answered soon. San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge James McGuire imposed a gag order on attorneys Friday, prohibiting them from discussing the case with the press or the public.
Through an assistant, McGuire said the gag order was issued “to protect the rights of all involved in the litigation.” The judge did not elaborate.
Cortez spoke in an interview Thursday, before the gag order was imposed. He declined to speak further Friday after the judge issued his order.
John Burdick, the Yucca Valley attorney representing Carrie Lee Davis, could not be reached for comment. William B. Sasnett, the Joshua Tree attorney representing Potts, declined to comment, citing the gag order.
The Sheriff’s Department, meanwhile, has refused to release the contents of a suicide note found in Davis’ cell. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Robin Haynal said Friday that the note cannot be discussed because it is evidence.
The alleged abuse came to light last fall, when the Davises’ older son, 17-year-old Yahweh, called 911 to report that he and his brother, 12-year-old Angel, were imprisoned by their parents.
Investigators believe the boys had been chained to a bench in their room for years while eating, sleeping and studying the Bible. The boys had never been to a school or a doctor. They were malnourished and underdeveloped, and were virtually unknown to the outside world, officials say.
Later, detectives learned that a third son, Rainbow Lord, had died about 10 years ago. The Davises acknowledged burning Rainbow’s body in a trash can, and said he may have died after eating a piece of drywall. Though they denied that abuse led to his death, the three defendants were charged with murdering him.
Last week, prosecutors brought another round of charges against the Davises after presenting a new batch of evidence that John Davis had raped a 15- or 16-year-old girl in January 1995.
John Davis was charged March 9 with new counts of rape, lewd acts with a minor, attempted rape and child abuse, and his bail was increased to $2.3 million. He committed suicide hours after that hearing.
Carrie Lee Davis was also charged with new counts because of the rape allegations: child abuse, aiding and abetting lewd acts with a minor and providing a child for the purpose of lewd or lascivious acts, Cortez said.
He would not discuss the new charges in detail, saying only that the alleged rape happened at the family’s Wonder Valley home.
He would not say whether the Davises were related to the girl.
“Carrie Davis was present and had a duty to intervene and did not do anything,” Cortez said. “This was someone she had a duty and an obligation to protect. That’s as much as I can say at this point.”
Carrie Lee Davis and Potts are aware of John Davis’ suicide, Cortez said. Foster care workers also informed Yahweh and Angel, who had no visible reaction.
“There was no emotion at all,” Cortez said. “I feel horrible for the children to think what they have to go through. It’s like another act of torture that he’s exacted upon them by doing this. It’s like saying: You put me here, and this is what I’ve done. It’s a total cop-out.”