Ann Marie Davee

1942-1978

In December of 1973, 31-year-old Ann Marie Davee committed herself to Metropolitan State Hospital. Having been diagnosed as schizophrenic (chronic undifferentiated type), Davee had been in and out of hospitals in both Massachusetts and Maine since the age of fifteen when she was also diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded. Little else is known about Ann, her childhood and family history.  

 

Though her killer was eventually apprehended, the sensationalized retelling of the “Hospital of the Seven Teeth Murder” continues to overshadow the very real and very horrific death of a patient in the care of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

 

A decade before Ann Marie Davee was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, fellow Met State patient Melvin Wilson Jr. was accused of assault and battery and committed for a brief time at Worcester State Hospital where it was determined that there was no sign of insanity. He was released only to be committed as a defective delinquent.

 

The complaint against Wilson was heinous. At the age of 18 he terrorized a 6-year-old boy by tying him up and gagging him while threatening to stick him with a knife. He later released the boy and brought him home, giving him a penny and threatening to kill him should he tell anyone what Wilson had done.

 

As a child Wilson had already been admitted to the Walter E. Fernald State School after having been held back in the first grade. He tended to play with younger children rather than those his own age and he frequently became physically ill when he experienced any kind of mental stress. His record notes that there was a great deal of mental disturbance in his family history. Considering the assault and battery charge as well as his history of mental illness, Wilson was deemed a defective delinquent and it was agreed that he would remain committed without parole. He remained incarcerated until 1951 when a habeas corpus petition was brought before the court, alleging that due process was not followed and Wilson was denied his rights when he was committed; he was subsequently released.After his release Wilson was once again evaluated for mental instability but was found to be of sound mind.

 

Shortly after his discharge, with a clean bill of mental health in hand, Wilson committed his second offense, once again brutalizing a younger boy. Wilson stated that he was living with his parents and had gotten a good job baling cardboard, a job he soon left when he decided he no longer liked it, taking odd jobs instead. One night in December of 1951 he was sitting out roasting marshmallows when three boys walked by. “l gave them some and after a while we started to play games, like hide the bottle; we got tired of that game so I told them about a game I knew.” Wilson suggested he tie one of the boys up and send the other two on their way, then have them come back and try to find the boy. As he picked up the boy to tie him up, Wilson says he “accidentally” stabbed him in the side with his jackknife.  He was immediately arrested and once again faced incarceration.

 

By 1978 Wilson was inexplicably transferred from Bridgewater State Hospital, a maximum security facility, to Metropolitan State Hospital where patients were granted access to the grounds and many buildings on campus.

 

On the morning of August 9, Ann Marie Davee was granted a grounds pass by her treatment team, one that allowed her to walk the grounds freely without an escort, a privilege she likely accepted glady. By that afternoon she was reported missing when she failed to return to her ward. Staff were notified, including the evening physician, Dr. Suvasini Pandit, who then notified Davee’s mother. A searched commenced for the missing patient which yielded a makeshift shelter filled with clothing and linens; within twenty-four hours the hut was dismantled and everything inside was sent to the hospital laundry before it could be included in the investigation report.


It seems Ann Marie Davee’s disappearance did little to worry the hospital administration and efforts to find her were suspended until October of that year when the hospital staff found a woman’s skirt, pieces of cloth, a pocketbook, and a small zippered case tied together in a bundle. Inside the purse were sunglasses, a hatchet, and a collection of photographs all with notes written to Ann Marie; the purse was determined to be hers, yet once again the search for Davee was halted.

 

A little over a month later, former defective delinquent Melvin Wilson was found to be in possession of seven of Ann Marie Davee’s teeth. The report on Davee’s death claimed that she and Wilson were “friends”. Wilson further claimed that he and Davee would meet out at the makeshift hut that was later found and destroyed by Department of Mental Health employees after it was deemed unimportant in the investigation into Davee’s disappearance. Because of this and other omissions from the DMH investigation, it is impossible to tell who last saw Ann Marie Davee alive.

 

Though the state police and Waltham police were notified of Davee’s disappearance, the Department of Mental Health was obligated to undertake its own extensive investigation. However, the department felt otherwise and believed it had done its due diligence simply by notifying law enforcement agencies, then systematically thwarted their efforts to further investigate the disappearance.

 

The first search for Ann Marie Davee was not conducted until October 6, nearly two months after her disappearance. There is no documentation or explanation as to the delay in the investigation, nor is there any evidence that any interviews were conducted or outside agencies involved. It is clear that the department neither pressed the police for help, nor did they reach out to department officials for assistance in Davee. The department’s own guidelines required hospital officials to interview any person with first-hand knowledge of the patient’s disappearance; this was not done. In fact, Melvin Wilson, whom the department believed to be one of Davee’s friends, was not interviewed until much later. Neither was Davee’s physician, her social worker nor the administrator in charge of her ward interviewed following her disappearance.

 

What investigation did exist was poorly documented, resulting in a great deal of missing information. Ultimately, the department’s lack of attention to Davee’s case led to her being legally discharged from Metropolitan State Hospital on February 9, 1979 which allowed the department to close the investigation into her disappearance, an action that was sanctioned by the state of Massachusetts. By this time it had been discovered that Melvin Wilson had been carrying seven teeth that had been identified as belong to Ann Marie Davee and likely extracted after her death, yet the department ignored this evidence and proceeded with labeling her an escaped patient and closing the case.

 

In 1980 the Attorney General commenced a criminal investigation into Ann Marie Davee’s disappearance. On August 12, 1980, after an extensive investigation by personnel from Investigative Unit of the Public Protection Bureau, they we were led to the gravesite of the missing woman by former patient Melivn Wilson, was responsible for the missing woman’s death who had buried her body on the grounds was later convicted. The Attorney General’s investigators found Davee’s dismembered body on the grounds of Metropolitan State Hospital. Forensics would later reveal that she was murdered and buried the day of her disappearance.

 

Had the state of Massachusetts and the Department of Mental Health done their part, perhaps Melvin Wilson, a known criminal, would not have slipped through the cracks and been transferred to a state hospital where patients were allowed grounds privileges. Perhaps he would not have been deemed mentally sound when in reality he was only biding his time until he had an opportunity to commit murder. Wilson, released from Bridgewater State Hospital on a legal technicality, was a danger to all those around him, yet he was allowed to stalk a prey as weak as the young boys he favored on the outside: his fellow patients. The state failed to communicate Wilson’s criminal history and therefore became directly responsible for Davee’s eventual disappearance.

 

In their haste to close this case and perhaps avoid any further negative ramifications, Ann Marie Davee was abandoned by both the state of Massachusetts and by the Department of Mental Health, two agencies tasked with protecting these most vulnerable members of society. Instead, her story has been lost as the agencies banded together to place the blame solely on Melvin Wilson, himself a mentally ill ward of the state. This tragedy demonstrates a degree of neglect on the part of the Department of Mental Health that led not only to the death of a human being, but to the loss of a daughter, a young woman who, with proper treatment, likely would have lived a long and full life outside of Metropolitan State Hospital. 

Katherine Anderson