Dana Sue Gray


Dana Sue Gray

Dana Sue Gray is an American serial killer who murdered three elderly women in 1994. She was caught after her fourth victim survived and identified her. Gray says she committed these murders to support her spending habits. She is now locked up in the California Women’s Prison in Chowchilla. Gray’s crimes were not only violent but she only knew two of her victims.

Contents

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Early life

Dana Sue Gray was born to Beverly and Russell Armbrust. They had several miscarriages before she was born. Beverly Gray was an aggressive, vain woman who frequently maxed out her husband’s credit cards; they finally divorced when her husband found her grappling with an older woman who had angered her. Dana Gray was two years old at the time, and afterwards rarely saw her father; she began acting out to get attention. Whenever Beverly would discipline her daughter, Dana would retaliate by stealing money to buy candy, and occasionally fly into fits of violence. In school she didn’t get along well with other students, and did poorly in all her classes. She was suspended from school many times for forging notes to get out of class.

When Gray was 14, her mother developed breast cancer; Gray decided to become a nurse after watching hospital nurses treat her mother. After her mother’s death, Gray moved in with her father, but was forced to leave after her stepmother found drugs in her room. A few years later, she became involved with a skydiving instructor, who got her pregnant twice; he convinced her to abort both pregnancies, something she resented. [1]

Personal life

Dana graduated from Newport Harbor High School in 1976. She lived with her sky-diving instructor, Rob, for the next several years and he helped her with Nursing School. She became an expert skydiver. In 1981 she graduated from Nursing School, and for the next few years had an on-again, off-again relationship with Chris Dodson, an excellent windsurfer. Dana excelled in windsurfing and golf, and they took trips to Hawaii to participate in these activities. In October 1987, Gray married a man named William (Bill) L Gray at an upscale winery in the Temecula area. He was a fellow sports enthusiast who had known and admired her since high school. Dana was a serious athlete, very fit, and beautiful with pretty blonde hair. The marriage quickly got into trouble, however, when Gray dug them deeply into debt. At this point, she was also estranged from her two half-brothers, having burned many bridges, in a dispute over an aunt’s will.

She was a labor and delivery nurse at Inland Valley Regional Medical Center. They lived in the gated community of Canyon Lake where they had several business ventures under the name Graymatter. Gray left her husband in early 1993 and moved in with their friend and her lover, Jim Wilkins, and his young son Jason. In June, 1993, she filed for divorce from Gray, though this was not finalized until after Dana had been in jail for quite some time. In September 1993, she and Gray filed for Bankruptcy to stave off foreclosure on their Canyon Lake House. Although the value of the house had greatly increased since they purchased it, they owed much more on the house than it was worth. On November 24, 1993, she was fired from the hospital where she worked for misappropriating Demerol and other opiate painkillers.

On February 14, 1994, Dana sent word through Gray’s parents (Gray kept his phone number and address hidden from her) that she wanted to meet with her estranged husband. Gray initially agreed, but did not show up. Later that day, Dana murdered Norma Davis, an elderly lady whose home Dana had shared for a time. Gray later found out that Dana had taken out an insurance policy on him. The policy would have paid off the Canyon Lake house in the event of Gray’s death. [2]

Victims

Norma Davis

Norma Davis, 86, is thought to be Gray’s first victim; due to lack of evidence, however, Gray was never convicted of killing her. Norma was the mother-in-law of the woman (Jeri Davis) that married Dana’s father in 1988. Jeri’s first husband, Bill Davis, was Norma’s son. Bill died in the early 1980s, and his widow eventually married Dana’s father Russell Armbrust. Jeri continued to care for her elderly mother-in-law, even after she remarried. Dana knew Norma very well. On February 16, 1994, Norma Davis had been dead for two days when she was found by her neighbor, Alice Williams. Davis had a wood handled utility knife sticking out of her neck, and a fillet knife sticking out of her chest. Other than a broken fingernail, she had no other marks. A bloodied afghan lay at her feet. Detectives learned that there was no forced entry into the house. [3] Detectives were informed that she always kept her door locked unless she was e
xpecting a visitor. Williams stated she could not remember Davis mentioning she was expecting company. Detectives found a Nike shoe print pointed toward the kitchen. They also found Davis’ $148 Social Security check.[citation needed] On the first floor of Davis’ condo a smear of blood was found on an arm chair. A ripped out phone cord was also found. [4]

June Roberts

June Roberts, 66, was killed on February 28, 1994. June Roberts, like Norma Davis, lived in the gated community Canyon Lake.[5] Gray had visited Roberts one day claiming she wanted to borrow a book about controlling a drinking problem. Roberts led Gray into her house. While Roberts searched for the book, Gray unplugged Roberts’ phone, both the straight cord and the curly cord. She then used the curly cord to strangle Roberts. When Roberts was dead, Gray rifled through her credit cards, stealing two. An hour later, Gray went on a massive shopping spree at an upscale shopping center in Temecula. [6]

Dorinda Hawkins

Gray attacked Hawkins, 57, at her job at an antique store. Hawkins had been working alone that day. Gray came in to buy a picture frame for a photo of her deceased mother. Gray strangled her with a telephone cord.[7] Gray took $5 from Hawkins’ purse and $20 from the cash register. An hour later, Gray went on another shopping spree, using Roberts’ credit card. Hawkins had survived the assault, however, and was able to give detectives a description of Gray. The next day the story was in the newspaper. [8]

Dora Beebe

On March 16, 1994, Gray killed Dora Beebe, 87. A few minutes after Beebe came home from a doctor’s appointment, Gray pulled up in front of Beebe’s house. Gray knocked on Beebe’s door and asked Beebe for directions. Beebe invited Gray inside to look at a map. [9] Once inside Gray attacked and killed Beebe. [7] Beebe was found later that day by her boyfriend of eight years, Louis Dormand. [10] An hour later, Gray used Beebe’s credit card to go on a shopping spree. [11]

Effects of Killings in Canyon Lake

Many of the residents of Canyon Lake were terrified. Some moved in with loved ones until the murder was solved. A group of elderly widows began sleeping in big groups at designated houses. They believed there was safety in numbers. Many residents theorized the murders were committed by a cult who engaged in ritual sacrifice. [12]

Potential suspects

Detectives had problems finding suspects early on. At one point it was so hard to find a lead that supervisor in charge recommended using a psychic.[7] Before Dana Gray was thought to be the serial killer, detectives had a few other suspects.

Jeri Armbrust

In the case of Norma Davis, detectives suspected Jeri Armbrust might be the killer. From talking to Armbrust detectives learned that she used to be married to Davis’ son. After Norma Davis’ son died, Jeri continued to care for her former mother-in-law. When Jeri remarried, it was to Russell Armbrust, Dana Gray’s father. Thus, the connection to Norma Davis. Davis was in very poor health and was still recovering from a triple bypass surgery. Detectives found it strange Armbrust would take care of someone who wasn’t a blood relative, and because she was wearing Nikes. Detectives also speculated over the fact that Armbrust had been in Davis’ house the Sunday before the murder. Armbrust claimed she stopped by Davis’ house to drop off groceries. When she arrived Armbrust heard Davis’ TV on upstairs but didn’t go up to say hi, she just left the groceries and went home. Detectives wondered why she wouldn’t say hello. [13] After weeks of talking with Armbrust and building a rapport, Detective Greco realized she wasn’t the person they were looking for. Detective Greco and Jeri Armbrust became friends and began helping each other during the investigation. Ultimately it was this friendship and trust that would be pivotal in solving this case.[14]

Lead Detectives

Joseph Greco

Detective Joseph Greco, of the Perris Police Department, led the murder investigations of Norma Davis and June Roberts. Greco initially wanted to become a Prosecutor but once his wife became pregnant he knew he needed a steady job fast. He decided to become an officer because he needed to make immediate income and raise a family. He also desired helping people. Greco graduated from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Academy as a pre-service student and was ranked among the top ten (#7) of his graduating class. He immediately began working for the Perris Police Department in 1988. Greco was highly decorated for his tenacity in the field and received numerous awards to include the Medal of Valor for running into a burning plane to save victims of The Perris Air Disaster on April 22, 1992.

Greco was promoted to the rank of Corporal in 1992 and assigned as an investigator working all major crimes against persons. The Norma Davis case, in 1994, was only Greco’s second homicide investigation. Greco was uncertain on whether or not he could handle the case due to the seriousness of the crime and his inexperience. Although Greco was 28 with 3 kids, his young appearance made people question his ability to do the job. One superior in his unit showed his unease by withholding information from Greco. One member of June Roberts family was unhappy to have Greco working on the case. Charles Van Owen, a former Reno Homicide Investigator himself, lacked confidence in Greco so much he intervened in the case. One day Van Owen called Greco informing him criminalists’ had left evidence at Robert’s house. Van Owen even insisted a chair with specks of Roberts blood were evidence. Greco knew the chair wouldn’t be helpful because the scene had already been processed by crime scene experts but he took the chair to the lab anyway.

Greco was the first person to realize that the Roberts and Davis case were connected and ultimately the work of one serial killer. He developed the informatio
n identifying Dana Sue Gray, and wrote the search warrant for her residence in Lake Elsinore CA on the day she was out killing her last victim, Dora Beebe. Greco arrested Dana Sue Gray at her front porch and took her into custody for the murder of June Roberts. The search of Gray’s home revealed property belonging not only to Roberts, but also to Beebe, and a third victim, Dorinda Hawkin’s who survived her attack and later identified Gray through a photo line-up as her lone attacker. Gray would later take a plea agreement to life without the possibility of parole and waived all of her appellate rights. She made one condition, however, and that was that the State would not prosecute her for the murder of Norma Davis (a distant relative).

Detective Joseph Greco is presently working for the Riverside County’s Sheriff’s Department’s Lake Elsinore Station and continues to specialize in elder abuse, sexual assault and child abuse cases.

Detective Joseph Greco Graduated from the University of Redlands School of Business, CA. with an MBA (2004). He is also a licensed California Real Estate Broker (2007). [7]

Chris Antoniadas

Detective Chris Antoniadas was the lead detective on the Dora Beebe case. Antoniadas interviewed Gray after Detective Greco finished interviewing her.

Antoniadas had a knack for getting criminals to confess to their crimes during interrogation. He knew how to relate to people in order to gain their trust and have the person open up to him. Antoniadas also knew how to play someone’s religion or insecurities against them. While interrogating Gray, Antoniadas had no clue how to approach her. Gray seemed very cold and unresponsive to any of Antoniadas’s approaches. Antoniadas finally decided he needed to take some of Dana’s control away from her. He then interrogated Gray roughly yelling at her to confess but was unsuccessful. Seeing that also did not work, Antoniadas charged her with the murder of Dora Bebee based upon the discovery of Beebe’s credit cards found in Gray’s sock drawer during Detective Greco’s search Warrant. [15]

Unfolding of the Case

Gray was finally caught because her description was obtained from various merchants in the Temecula California area where she used June Robert’s credit cards to go on a “shopping spree.” Dana had been spending so much money that the credit card company called June Roberts family to alert them of the massive spending. The detectives then went to all the stores Gray used the credit cards at. [7] Detectives interviewed cashiers from every store. By doing this detectives were able to get a description of what Gray looked like. They also found out the killer had dyed her hair recently and had a little boy named Jason. Detective Greco kept in touch with Jeri Armbrust. He began providing the description of the killer to her on a visit to her home. Jeri would reveal to Greco the next day that she believed the suspect to be her stepdaughter. Dana had just dyed her hair and had a boyfriend with a son named Jason. Detective Greco wrote a search warrant for Gray’s home and enlisted the help of ARCNET (Allied Riverside County Narcotics Enforcement Team) to stake out Gray’s home in Lake Elsinore California.

Unbeknownst to the team, Gray was murdering Dora Beebe just hours before following her. They secretly followed her around trying to collect evidence against Dana. After seeing Dana go to the bank with Beebe’s card, then go shopping, the detectives developed enough information for nexus involving Dora Beebe murder. Later that day Greco arrested Dana while she was cooking dinner for her family. Detective Greco took Dana into custody while assisting officers took her boyfriend and his son down to the station for questioning. [7]

During questioning, Dana claimed she never took the credit cards. After detectives said they had evidence of her using them, Dana claimed she found both Robert’s and Beebe’s cards. She stuck with this story for hours. She claimed the reason she kept the cards was she had an overwhelming need to shop. She also seemed to have no sympathy for the victims. [7]

Detective Antoniadas attempted to obtain a confession after Detective Greco’s interview but was unsuccessful. Detective Greco eventually booked Gray on charges of murder. [16] At a hearing on July 23, Deputy DA Richard Bentley requested the death penalty. Gray pleaded insanity on all counts. After a witness claimed to have seen Gray at Roberts’ house the day of her death, Gray changed her plea to guilty to robbing and murdering two women and attempting to murder another. By pleading guilty Gray avoided the death penalty. On October 16, 1998, Dana Sue Gray was sentenced to life without parole and was incarcerated in the California Women’s Prison in Chowchilla. [17]

References

  1. ^ Kathy Braidhill, To Die For, New York, St. Martins Paperbacks, 2000, pages 194-202
  2. ^ Kathy Braidhill, To Die For, 2000.
  3. ^ Katherine Ramsland, Addicted to Luxury: The Pampered Killer
  4. ^ ibid
  5. ^ [trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/women/dana_sue_gray/4]
  6. ^ Braidhill pages 31-34.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Dana Sue Gray – unusual female serial killer – the Crime Library – Crime Library on truTV.com
  8. ^ Braidhill pages 66- 67
  9. ^ Braidhill pgs. 87 – 88
  10. ^ Braidhill page 91
  11. ^ Dana Sue Gray – unusual female serial killer – the Crime Library – Crime Library on truTV.com
  12. ^ Braidhill pages 73-74
  13. ^ Braidhill pgs. 11 – 13
  14. ^ Braidhill pages 26-29.
  15. ^ Ibid pages 171-173
  16. ^ Braidhill pages 171-173
  17. ^ Dana Sue Gray – unusual female serial killer – the Crime Library – Crime Library on truTV.com

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