The body of Davya Cross, 62, was discovered in the shower at Washington State Penitentiary on Sunday at around 1:15 p.m. by corrections officers.
Local police are now investigating the death after the Walla Walla County Coroner’s office classified the case as a homicide, as first reported by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
A suspect has reportedly been identified but hasn’t been named.
Cross’s death comes just four years after the Washington Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional, converting the sentences of Cross and seven other death row inmates to life in prison.
A jury sentenced Cross to death in 2001 for the 1999 murders of his wife Anouchka Baldwin, 37, and two stepdaughters, Salome, 18, and Amanda, 15.
The 2006 appellate decision reveals how Baldwin’s youngest daughter (M.B.) awoke to the sounds of Cross stabbing her mother and oldest sister Salome to death with a kitchen knife.
Cross then made his way to the room M.B. shared with Amanda. The two girls did their best to keep Cross out, with Amanda blockading the door with her body hoping that Cross would not enter the room.
Cross ultimately removed the door from its hinges and proceeded to stab Amanda to death in front of her sister, states the appeal.
After witnessing the murder of her sister, M.B. was held at knifepoint for five hours while Cross watched television and drank wine. She made her escape when he fell asleep, quickly fleeing from the house and alerting authorities to the deaths of her mother and two sisters.
Cross and his lawyer initially entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, but the defendant later changed that to an Alford plea.
An Alford plea is often used when a defendant feels a guilty verdict is unavoidable and wants to mitigate the potential punishment. In Cross’s case, he argued that the murders of his wife and her two daughters were in no way premeditated despite the overwhelming evidence presented by prosecutors.
This became one of the many sources of tension in the courtroom, according to the 2006 decision rejecting Cross’s appeal:
Cross made frequent furious outbursts in court, often swearing at the judge and prosecution. While Cross vacillated somewhat, he became increasingly set against presenting expert testimony on his mental health. Because counsel was adamant this testimony was required, Cross made multiple motions to fire his attorneys, proceeding pro se, or have different counsel appointed. It is clear from the record that his counsel believed Cross’s best chance to avoid a death sentence was his poor mental health.
In the end, Cross was convicted of three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of kidnapping. A jury sentenced him to death.
Cross tried to die by suicide twice in the wake of the murders, according to the appellate documents. Those failed attempts resulted in Cross fracturing his skull and cervical column, injuring his brain and spine, and rendering himself paraplegic.
He was resentenced to death in 2008, taken off death row in 2018, and killed behind bars in 2022.
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