The Murder of Terry King
An unhappy family
The oldest of the four, Derek, lived with a foster family until 2001. Frank and Nancy Lay would later tell a jury that their foster son had seemed obsessed with fire. Nancy Lay even called him "a perpetual con man." His exasperated foster family had wanted to send the increasingly difficult adolescent to military school, but his father intervened and took him home.
Once reunited, the two brothers started spending a lot of time with one of Terry King's friends, auto mechanic Ricky Chavis. He let them stay up late, watch cable TV, play video games, and smoke marijuana. Terry didn't like his peer's interest in his sons and he didn't like Chavis' permissive attitude. He soon forbade the boys from hanging out with Chavis.
In November 2001, Terry learned that the boys had been seeing Chavis behind his back.
Chavis had picked them up from school, and later went by the King house to return a cookbook that the boys had left in his car.
Terry King permitted his sons and Chavis one last visit so they could say goodbye for good. Chavis managed to quietly slip Alex King a $20 bill and the keys to his trailer home, telling the boys that if the fighting with their father ever got so bad they wanted to run away, they always could come to him.
Chavis had always suggested that Terry King was too strict. He even insinuated to Alex that Terry was an abusive father. Alex seems to have remembered things differently: He told the jury things weren't so bad. He'd only been spanked a few times in his life, and he always enjoyed helping his father with the yard work and his remodeling projects.
But the King boys took Chavis up on that offer and ran away. They wanted the freedom Chavis represented, Alex later recounted. A life without rules was too much to pass up. Alex later told investigators that he had planned to stay with Chavis until he turned 16.
According to the boys, Chavis kept up his story: Terry King was never going to let the boys stay with him, and he was going to punish them once he found them. If they ever needed to kill their father, they could always stay with him.
Alex also told investigators that he'd realized that he was gay and that he wanted to be like Chavis, with whom he said he was having a sexual relationship. He said he was in love with the older man.
In 1984, Ricky Chavis had been convicted of molesting three boys. On November 27, 2001, he drove the two King brothers to the Escambia County Sherriff's office.
The boys announced they had killed their father and they were charged with murder; Chavis was accused of being an accessory and of evidence-tampering and of molesting Alex.
Then the boys blamed him, and he was charged with murder and arson.