Something had set Lane Davis off, but that wasn’t unusual.
It was a clear summer afternoon on July 14, on Samish Island—a small, idyllic community off the northwest coast of Washington state—where Lane, a balding, bearded, Donald Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist and prolific YouTuber and Redditor, known online as Seattle4Truth, lived with his parents.
Lane had spent that Friday morning as he did most mornings, on the internet. This day, like the others, Lane read and retweeted posts celebrating the Second Amendment, bemoaning diversity, and spreading conspiracy theories that alleged Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta was involved in a child sex ring and DNC staffer Seth Rich had been murdered for leaking sensitive emails to WikiLeaks. It was the end of a busy week during which he contributed to the Donald Trump subreddit, and over on The Ralph Retort, a fringe blog where he worked as a political editor, (unpaid, according to the site’s owner), he had celebrated the idea of a Kid Rock Senate run, claimed America was under threat of Sharia law, and wondered whether CNN was “literally ISIS.”
Lane’s parents, Catherine and Charles Davis—Charles was known as Chuck to his friends—were used to their 33-year-old son’s outbursts. They had become so frequent that Charles had started recording the tirades on his phone. But that afternoon, they were tired of Lane’s screaming, wanted him to leave, and told him as much. Instead, Lane chased his parents around their home, spitting in his father’s face while screaming that he wasn’t threatening to kill them, but “pedophiles who were taking over the country.”
Catherine Davis called 911. The tape of her call was acquired by The Daily Beast.
“He’s not physically threatening us or anything,” Catherine told the dispatcher. “He just gets out of control and he’s ranting about stuff from the internet.”
Was Lane drunk, the dispatcher asked? On drugs? Was there any history of a mental disorder?
“No, not reported, but he’s not working and he gets on these rampages and he just needs to move on,” Catherine replied.
The dispatcher suggested Catherine and Charles stay away from Lane until the police arrived.
“We’re trying to but he’s chasing us around the house,” she replied. “He’s mad about something on the internet about leftist pedophiles and he thinks we’re leftist and he’s calling us pedophiles. And I don’t know what all.”
Catherine laughed. “He just lives on the internet and he gets really worked up about everything that’s going on. He needs an intervention of some kind here.”
Police were on their way, the dispatcher told Catherine, and she hung up. But Charles’s phone kept recording.
On the 12-minute audio file later recovered by Skagit County Detective Kevin Sigman, a manic Lane, enraged by his mother’s 911 call, says, “OK well, so here’s the deal. If I am going to go to prison for threatening to kill somebody, I mean...”
“Leave the knife alone,” Charles says while his mother tries to reassure him: No one wants to send him to prison, they just want some help.
Lane doesn’t seem to hear or believe his mother. “So, you are going to send me to prison?” he asks. “My life is over.”
Minutes later, Catherine called 911 again. The audio recording is hard to hear. In it, Catherine is running and the portable phone she’s using breaks up. Catherine screams “He stabbed him!” before the connection is lost.
As the 73-year-old maritime lawyer and grandfather of two lay bleeding on the back deck, stabbed by his son in the chest and the back with a chef’s knife, Lane walked outside, dropped his weapon and stood with his hands in the air, waiting for police to arrive.
Catherine called 911 once more. “He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead.”
In a seeming confession, Lane Davis told detectives that the fight had started over “whether toddlers could consent to sex or not,” and his father had called him a Nazi and a racist. Held on $1 million bail and represented by a public defender, Lane has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. His trial is slated for January.
Besides the alleged murder of his father, we know little about Lane in the real world. He graduated from high school in 2002 and by August 2003 had enrolled at Washington State University, according to a university spokesman. Lane hadn’t chosen a major when he dropped out in 2004. Over the next few years, Lane racked up a few misdemeanors—traffic violations and a DUI—but generally stayed out of trouble, preferring to rabble rouse online.
In 2010, Lane published a very long paper, “Quantum Cold-Case Mysteries Revisited,” in The General Science Journal, a non-peer-reviewed electronic journal that allows literally anyone to contribute and includes a warning against assuming claims made therein are true or fit “for any purpose or use.” A Google Scholar search shows that no one has ever cited Lane’s paper, which in place of usual citations includes a note: “In honor of the late, great, Albert Einstein and his celebrated paper which announced the famous equation E = mc2 to the world, this dissertation does not include any references.”
On his YouTube channel—which still after seven years has just around 11,000 subscribers—Lane peddled the conspiracy theorist's greatest hits (vaccines and Sept. 11 inside jobs among them), posted original pro-Trump raps alongside cooking tutorials, and most notably, released a three-hour long documentary on GamerGate. Curiously, Lane suggested the campaign of online harassment (doxing, and rape and death threats were favored practices) targeting female video-game developers in 2014 was linked to the education standards known as Common Core.
Lane’s position in the GamerGate controversy is puzzling. Though initially a supporter of the movement, internal fighting over credit for his research led Lane to disavow his former colleagues. By the summer of 2015, he had defected to an anti-GamerGate group. The change in loyalty didn’t seem to affect his tactics, however. In addition to his behind-the-scenes “digging” for the cause, Lane would call the employers of women game developers and their allies, in an attempt to get them fired.
London musician Joshua Idehen was one of his targets. Idehen said Lane sent an email to his manager, his agent, and to a charity he worked with, and alleged he was involved with pedophilia.
“Basically, for a week made it his mission to email everyone I had ever been in contact with,” Idehen told The Daily Beast. “It didn’t cause me that much trouble, except having to explain over and over again what GamerGate was.”
Around this time, Lane had hooked up with Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, an alt-right provocateur who shared a similar interest in GamerGate, or the clicks that came with their army. Lane signed on as researcher and ghostwriter, one of 44 in Yiannopoulos’s mostly unpaid employ. (Lane later leaked the details of Yiannopoulos’s intern horde to BuzzFeed.)
A 2016 article titled “MacArthur’s Thought Police,” arguing the MacArthur charity promotes censorship on social media, was originally credited to both Lane and Yiannopoulos, but is currently posted on Capital Research Center’s website under Yiannopoulos’s sole byline.
Through a spokesperson, Yiannopoulos’s responded to an interview request from The Daily Beast with a statement:
“Mr. Davis was a volunteer for me for a brief period of time prior to my founding MILO Inc. I was unhappy with his work and discontinued the relationship. I then experienced his anger firsthand as he threatened me and later went to BuzzFeed making false and inaccurate accusations."
Yiannopoulos did not return a request for elaboration.
Lane found the opportunity for bylines not on Breitbart, but on a website even further to the right, TheRalphRetort.com. Headed by prominent GamerGate leader, Ethan Ralph—currently serving an eight-month sentence in a Loudon County, Virginia, jail for assaulting a police officer—the site published Lane’s content almost daily. Since the news of Lane’s crime, the site has, in colorful language, distanced itself from Lane, and rejected the notion that the alt-right could have either indoctrinated Lane or given safe haven for his violent ideas.
In a statement made from jail and tweeted by his wife, Nora, who also runs the site, Ralph said, “The rush to score points against me, while completely expected, is also completely ridiculous. I’m only responsible for my own actions...I also lack the ability to predict future murders. This isn’t Minority Report.”
Last week, Lane’s posts were scrubbed from the blog with a note from Nora that read in part, “As for Seattle4Truth, we’ll be working to erase him from this website in the coming days. I don’t care how big his contribution was. A guy that would murder his own father in cold blood doesn’t deserve to be read. No matter how accurate he was in the past, he ended his usefulness to this world when he ended his dad’s life.”
Deleting Lane’s contributions from the alt-right groups to which he once belonged doesn’t quite answer the concern that these sites may have enabled or inspired him to commit violence, a feeling that has grown on the heels of several high-profile crimes by followers of the same alt-right conspiracy theories in which Lane dabbled. A man who fired a rifle inside a pizzeria, in an attempt to free what he believed to be child sex slaves hidden in the restaurant’s back room, was sentenced to four years in prison in June. That same month, Sandy Hook truther Lucy Richards was sentenced to five months in prison for threatening a 6-year-old victim’s parent via voicemail: “Death is coming to you real soon.” As part of her sentence, Richards is barred from accessing conspiracy-theory websites.
While Lane waits for his day in court, others in his orbit are cautioning against the dangers associated with conspiracy theories.
In a podcast about the murder, Jack “FoxDie” Pierce warned his listeners: “Some people out there that are looking into this deep-level conspiracy level thing, PizzaGate or whatever. You may be on to something What I can tell you from experience is don’t let it consume you.”
“But when you spend so much time trying to dig into information and trying to understand things around you, you do get enveloped by it, it does bother you and you do change... You do get too deep and some people go crazy from it, temporarily or forever, but that’s just a risk of going into these dangerous sort of fields.”