Frances “Mae” Davis was a day away from celebrating her 79th birthday when police say she was found slumped over in the front passenger seat of her car in the Myrtle Beach Mall parking lot Friday.
The jovial grocery store clerk who was a mother of three, grandmother of five and great grandmother of nine had been shot.
Her purse was missing. But questions abound about how and why Davis, described as a “pay-it-forward person” who would have done anything for anyone who asked, was killed in broad daylight.
“The ATF (federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible,” said Lt. Raul Denis of the Horry County Police Department. “We are still actively investigating, but we have no details to release at this time.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The ATF (federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.
Lt. Raul Denis, Horry County Police Department
The case has been labeled a homicide and police have asked anyone with information to call 843-915-8477.
For Davis’ daughters, the answers to questions won’t come fast enough as they recall with painstaking detail the last few minutes and days they had with their mother and the “senseless” killing that took her from them.
Davis’ daughter, Shelly Wells, said they had been shopping at Wal-Mart where Wells bought her mother a birthday present Friday morning. Wells stopped to fill up Davis’ car at the Murphy Express gas station after leaving the store. With a jackpot looming of nearly $1 billion, she went in to buy her mother a Powerball ticket.
Davis wanted her to have a ticket too so she went back inside to purchase another one. The time of purchase on the ticket was stamped at 11:49 a.m., Wells said.
“I drove around the corner to the mall and that’s when she said she didn’t want to go in,” Wells said. “And she’s done that a hundred times: ‘I don’t want to go in. I’m tired. You’re not going to be long, just go in.’ And that’s all I did.”
Wells said she went into the J.C. Penney’s store and headed straight for the home décor section. She grabbed a shower curtain and waited in line to check out.
I thought she was asleep and I was teasing her. I’m like, ‘Mom, I can’t leave you alone for five minutes and you fall asleep in the car’ because she’s done it before. I pick up my purse out of the driver’s seat, I set it in my lap and I’m like, ‘Mom, wake up.’
Shelly Wells, Davis’ daughter
About 15 minutes later, Wells said she returned to the car and thought her mother was sleeping.
“I thought she was asleep and I was teasing her. I’m like, ‘Mom, I can’t leave you alone for five minutes and you fall asleep in the car’ because she’s done it before,” Wells said. “I pick up my purse out of the driver’s seat, I sit it in my lap and I’m like, ‘Mom, wake up.’ … ‘Come on Mom, wake up!’”
Wells said she picked her mother’s chin up and saw blood.
“I’m freaking out and I’m getting out of the car and I’m trying to get my phone out of my pocket and I’m trying to get my phone to work and I’m trying to dial 911 and it was 12:16 p.m. That’s how quickly it was,” Wells said. “Fifteen minutes for somebody just to walk up and shoot her.”
She said she realized her mother’s purse had been stolen as she spoke with emergency dispatchers on the phone.
“They just killed her to take a purse,” Wells said.
Wells said the tragedy has reminded them just how careful and mindful people have to be of their surroundings.
This is not something you expect in your family. You expect this in another part of the world, but not right here, not to you.
Michele Gagne, Davis’ daughter
“I mean … we’re talking noon. That’s just crazy to me. I can see it happening if it was nighttime, but at noon?” said Davis’ daughter Michele Gagne of Little River. “If she would have died of natural causes even at the mall in the car … that would have been so much easier. But because this was a murder, a cold-blooded murder, I just still can’t wrap my head around it. I still wake up in the morning and wait for her to come out of her room, come out in the garage and have a cigarette and a cup of coffee. … This is not something you expect in your family. You expect this in another part of the world, but not right here, not to you.”
Davis was pronounced dead at the hospital on Friday.
“She was 78,” Gagne said. “Her birthday was Saturday.”
Davis grew up in Martinsburg, W. Va., and lived in Virginia and in California for several years before moving with Gagne to Myrtle Beach and then Little River.
“Mom was the most giving, loving person,” said Wells, who also lives in Little River.
She was a pay-it-forward person. She would see homeless on the street (and) if she wasn’t giving them money, she was buying them food, giving them blankets to stay warm.
Michele Gagne, Davis’ daughter
“She would do anything in the world for you,” Gagne added. “She was a pay-it-forward person. She would see homeless on the street (and) if she wasn’t giving them money, she was buying them food, giving them blankets to stay warm. She would have brought them home if I would have allowed it. … Her and my dad were always that way.”
Davis’ daughters say they are baffled by the thought their mother was shot for a purse she would have given.
“If it was her last dollar she would have gave it to you,” Gagne said. “If it was the shirt off her back and you needed it…”
“She would have taken it off and given it to you,” Wells added.
“For this person to shoot her is – I don’t even know,” Gagne said. “I mean, I cannot wrap my head around it.”
We are going to find this person.
Shelly Wells, Davis’ daughter
But Gagne and Wells are certain they want to find the killer and bring that person to justice. The two plan to raise money to put up a billboard seeking the public’s help to find the suspect.
“We are going to find this person,” Wells said. “We are going to find this person.”
Gagne made fliers announcing her mother’s celebration of life service set for 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at Lee Funeral Home in Little River. The flier asks those who attend to wear purple – Davis’ favorite color – and for those who would buy flowers to consider donating to the billboard project. She planned to place a flier at the Food Lion at 4030 River Oaks Drive, where her mother worked.
The service for Davis was pushed back to allow family and friends living along the west coast the chance to attend. Davis’ daughters anticipate a big service.
“She touched a lot of lives,” Gagne said. They plan to celebrate her life and not mourn the tragedy of her death.
Reach Weaver at 843-444-1722 or follow her on Twitter @TSNEmily.
Celebration of life service
Set for 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at Lee Funeral Home, 11840 S.C. 90, Little River, SC 29566
People are asked to wear purple, Davis’ favorite color