PHOTO CAPTION: Eleven-year-old Chloe Davis is shown in a receiving hospital at Los Angeles as she told police her account of the wild tragedy in which she aid her mother, Mrs. Lolita Davis, slew two other daughters and a son, set herself afire in a blaze of burning feathers and then screamed at Chloe to hit her with a hammer. Police quoted the girl as saying she hit her mother 20 to 50 times until the hammer broke.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Los Angeles, April 5 – Early solution of the brutal hammer slaying of a mother and her three small children is anticipated, authorities said today, as they held Chloe Davis, sole 11-year-old survivor of the death drama on a suspicion of murder booking.
From amazing, discrepant versions told them by the cool, slang-talking child. Police Captain Edgar Edwards said clues indicated she bludgeoned her mother, Mrs. Lolita Bjorkman Davis, 36, to death with a claw hammer after fatally beating her sisters, Daphne, 10, and Deborah Ann, 7, and her brother Marquis, 3.
The husband and father, summoned home after the tragedy from a grocery store where he clerks aided authorities in their questioning of Chloe who, despite several divergent stories, still blamed her mother for the crime.
~ Above Average Intelligence ~
Dr. Paul De River, police psychiatrist, after questioning Chloe, a sixth-grade student he described as above average intelligence, said he considered her “the coldest-blooded, coolest individual I ever met.’ Veteran police officers said they were astonished by the imperturbable demeanor of the girl, who was described by one police matron as having “a face like an Angel’s.”
“Chloe is a precocious youngster, said Dr. River, she acts like a girl of 15 or 16 years of age. She is a child of a great deal of imagination and is well read.
“As to her guilt or innocence, I cannot say. She told me she was sure she had not committed the murders.”
~ Angered When Denied Beer ~
After being questioned for awhile Chloe sat down with Captain Edwards and ate a hearty steak dinner. When he refused to order her a bottle of beer, she snapped:
“Mother and I split a bottle a couple of days ago.”
Captain Edwards said the 60-pound fair-haired, blue-eyed Chloe first told him calmly and with no sign of tears that her mother, of medium height and build, killed the three children with the hammer, saying that “demons” were after hear.
Then, at the request of her mother, Chloe said she took the weapon and “conked” her about 50 times on the head and body until the head broke off the handle of the hammer, then beat her with the handle “until she stopped breathing.”
Repeated questioning of the girl and subsequent developing of the discrepancies, however, led Edwards to conclude, he said, that Chloe awakened while her mother was still in bed. went to the kitchen where Marquis and Daphne were playing and fatally bludgeoned them; then encountered her mother in the hallway, struck her down with the hammer and beat her to death.
~ Blisters On Child’s Hands ~
Captain Edwards said the palms of Chloe’s hands were blistered, apparently from considerable use of the hammer.
Continuing his reconstruction of the tragedy, Edwards said:
“Chloe then went into the bathroom and killed Ann. In an attempt to disguise the whole affair, she tried to burn her mother’s body. She dragged a mattress from a daybed in her mother’s bedroom, placed her mother’s body on the mattress and started a fire.
“The nightgown was burned from Mrs. Davis, but Chloe saw she could not, as she hoped to do, burn the house. She changed her clothing, took an hour to think things over concocted a story about her mother believing in “demons” and called her father.”
When the father reached home Edwards said Chloe told him, when he inquired what was wrong, “you’d better go in the kitchen and see.”
Later, the police captain related, the girl said to her father: “Daddy. Hi. you mustn’t get excited; let’s so for walk.”
~ Believed She Struck Self ~
Chloe, suffering from a head in injury police believe she either suffered in a struggle with her mother or she inflicted upon herself with the hammer to substantiate her story that her mother was responsible for the crime, answered police questions with no show of emotion. Edwards said the girl, after giving various versions, finally admitted she killed her mother with the hammer, struck her young Brother three times and then beat him to death to “put him out of his misery.”
One of Chloe’s stories, Edwards said, was that her mother killed the children, set fire to her hair and ordered her to strike her with the hammer to “stop this pain.”
Then she changed her story, Edwards said, and declared that Marquis was dead when she awakened and that she found her mother striking her younger sisters. Later, the police captain drew an admission from her, he said, that she beat her brother, as well as her mother. but denied striking her two sisters.
~ Waves Airily to Schoolmates ~
Enroute home from the police station for a re-enactment of her version of the crime, Chloe waved airily to schoolmates who, faces white with terror, were clustered on the lawn.
Inside the house, she walked sprightly through room, whose walls were splotched with blood, telling her story in a lively chatter, Edwards said.
At one point, she strolled over I and started to play a small organ purchased for her by her father, of whom she once remarked: “He’s nuts.”
“Pointing to some books in her room, Chloe said:
“I’m a bookworm. I read all the time.”
Little Patricia Axtel, a neighbor, told police she once saw Chloe fly into a rage and beat her mother repeatedly with a broomstick when her mother refused her a nickel for candy. She also said Chloe refused to obey her mother refused her a nickel for candy. She also said Chloe refused to obey her mother in simple household duties.
During the questioning of Chloe, her father once broke into tears and muttered “Oh, my poor baby!”
~ Tells Dad to “Buck Up” ~
Chloe looked, up and, almost sneeringly, remarked:
“Buck up, Dad. Don’t let it get you down.”
Then she reached for the comic page of a newspaper and asked not to be disturbed as she read her favorite strips.
Early in the questioning, Chloe became hungry and demanded some “lemon pie and chicken soup.”
When her order was filled, her eyes gleamed, and she exclaimed:
“Oh, boy! That’s my favorite dish.” She devoured the pie in a few quick bites and, then ate the soup. Davis said his wife had been an excellent mother and that she read and studied much of her time to improve herself as a parent. On the bookshelf of the family home were such works as “How to be a Good Mother” and “How to Raise Children.”
[“Believe Child Killed Mother And 3 Children - Slang-Talking Chloe Davis, 11, Being Held By Authorities In Los Angeles - Angel-Like Face – Admits Beating Mother and Brother to Death With Claw Hammer; Denies Killing Sisters,” syndicated, Cumberland Evening Times (Md.), Apr. 5, 1940, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Los Angeles, April 24. – Frightened and tearful, 11-year-old Chloe Davis told again today of the tragedy that took the lives of her mother, her two sisters and her baby brother, then became a ward of the juvenile court for a year. She was released immediately, however, to her father.
Judge W. Turney Fox held the child had no abnormal tendencies, ruling that her unusual behavior while her mother hammered to death the three small children and then committed suicide, was due to the mother’s domination.
Chloe amazed officers and friends with her dry-eyed, matter-of-fact recital; April 4 of Mrs. Lolita Davis’ attack upon the children – Daphne, 10; Deborah, 7, and Mark, 3 – and upon Chloe herself. She said she wrested a hammer from her mother and, at Mrs. Davis’ request, beat the parent and also little Mark. A coroner’s jury decided Mark died from his mother’s blows – not Chloe’s – and that Mrs. Davis died after slashing her own wrists.
It was the first time that Chloe – publicly at least – had given way to tears. Her voice barely audible, she had to stop several times as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I heard screams … I think it was Daphne … Well, I went out into the hall and mama hit me on the head … I wrestled with her for the hammer … Then she tried to set my hair on fire …”
Then she told of beating Mark and her mother with the hammer “I don’t know how many times.”
“The court accepts the findings of the coroner’s jury that Chloe Davis was not responsible for the deaths of her mother and brother,” said Judge Fox, adding that she was “subjected to shock and fright, and that she was under the complete domination of her mother and therefore not responsible for any acts she may have committed.”
He ordered that Chloe be permitted to live with her father at the home of relatives or friends approved by the probation office.
[“Chloe Davis Tearfully Tells How Her Mother Ran Amok - Frightened, Shocked Girl Becomes Ward of Juvenile Court, But Is Released In Father’s Care by Judge’s Order,” syndicated (AP), Washington Post (D.C.), Apr. 25, 1940, p. 5]