Texas airman is poisoned by wife, brutally stabbed 41 times and dumped in pond, motive remains a mystery
More than 15 years after he was given animal tranquilizers and stabbed 41 times by his wife, the motive behind the gruesome murder of Texas Air Force Sergeant Michael Severance remains a mystery.
Severance had been a small-town boy who grew up in Lee, Maine, not far from the Canadian border, and joined the Air Force, like his father, after he graduated from high school.
In the force, Severance rose through the ranks quickly, becoming a crew chief on a C-130 military transport aircraft and getting promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. He was deployed five times, including thrice that were "in direct support of the global war on terror."
After spending a significant amount of time overseas, he was assigned to the Dyess Air Force base in Abilene, Texas, where he would have an ultimately fatal meeting with his future wife Wendi Mae Davidson.
Severance ran into Davidson in 2003 after he learned how to line-dance and two-step in a bid to meet women, and the pair hit it off immediately despite them seemingly being opposites as far as personalities were concerned.
Davidson, who loved working with animals and had ambitions to become a veterinarian, had attended Texas A&M University and given birth to a son after becoming pregnant during her partying days.
Severance, on the other hand, was a stoic military man who valued order above all else.
Nevertheless, their relationship took off quite quickly, and a few months in, Davidson had become pregnant with their child. In September 2004, just a few weeks after the birth of their son, they tied the knot at a Texas courthouse.
The couple subsequently moved into an apartment in the back of a San Angelo veterinary clinic that Davidson had recently purchased, where it all went wrong.
They were planning a trip back east to Maine and were due to arrive at Severance's home on January 16, 2005, but never showed. Concerningly, Davidson then called to report that her husband had gone missing.
In an interview with the San Angelo Police Department, Davidson said she had last seen Severance on the morning of January 15 and that he had left behind both his car and his cell phone. She claimed he had been drinking a lot because he was being deployed to Afghanistan once again and might have run away.
The San Angelo police then contacted the Texas Rangers for investigative assistance, but neither was able to drum up any leads.
They did learn, however, that there was tension between Severance and his mother-in-law Judy Davidson, who worked as an office manager in her daughter’s veterinary practice and said she "didn't like him. Never did. Never will," but found no evidence tying her to his disappearance.
In a last-ditch attempt, Severance's father, Leslie, reached out to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for help. When the officer, who was initially on leave, failed to show up back to work at the base, they had little choice but to open a deserter investigation.
The OSI hit a breakthrough almost immediately when, along with the San Angelo PD, they performed a search of the couple's home and Davidson’s veterinary practice, and uncovered a hard drive with seemingly incriminating evidence.
They found that Davidson had searched about polygraph tests on the internet, as well as phrases like "decomposition of a body in water." In a bid to trap her into revealing her guilt, they planted a GPS device on her car and learned she was repeatedly visiting a livestock ranch outside town that belonged to the family. During one of those visits, she stopped near a pond on the property.
During an interview, she "got kind of defensive," according to court documents, raising suspicions further. She all but confirmed she was behind his disappearance when, after the interview, she drove straight to the ranch.
The same evening, her brother contacted the police and told them she had confessed to dumping the body. She was immediately taken into custody, and she claimed she had found him deceased and only moved his body to the pond.
The next day, Severance's body, which was still in pristine condition, was found at the bottom of the pond. He had been stabbed 41 times and was weighed down with more than 140 pounds of car parts, tires, and cinder blocks so his body wound not float to the surface.
The killer had stabbed him after killing him. "These were post-mortem cuts to allow the release of gases that typically accumulate in decomposing bodies," said Tom Green County Justice of the Peace Eddie Howard at the time. "Rage is hitting (stabbing or poking) one spot. It's more localized. These were spread out."
An autopsy then revealed his blood contained lethal levels of drugs commonly found in veterinary clinics, which resulted in authorities charging Davidson with first-degree murder and two counts of tampering with evidence.
After denying the charges for a year, she pleaded no contest to the charges in October 2006 and was sentenced 25 years to prison, but has continued to maintain her innocence.
Last year, she was denied an early release from prison after a seven-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to deny her request for parole and cited the brutal nature of her crime.
"The record indicates the instant offense has elements of brutality, violence, assaultive behavior, or conscious selection of victim’s vulnerability indicating a conscious disregard for the lives, safety, or property of others, such that the offender poses a continuing threat to public safety," the board ruled.
She will be eligible to apply again in 2024.
Severance's murder has been chronicled in the latest episode of Oxygen's 'Snapped,' which airs on Sundays at 6/5c.