Gloria Killian first heard about the murder at the Davies home on the local news. During a robbery, Grace Davies was shot in the head, crawled out of her house, and was found the following day; Ed Davies was killed. Six suitcases of silver had been taken from their home. There had been a string of robberies connected to coin shops in the area, and Ed Davies was a customer at the coin shop where Gloria worked. Gloria, at the time a 35-year-old law student, was asked by police to appear at the station soon after the shooting. “I didn’t see any reason not to go,” she said. “I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have anything to hide.” After several hours of questioning, Gloria was arrested, charged with murder, and because it was a capital offense, denied bail.
After four and a half months in jail, the case against Gloria was dismissed for lack of evidence. Gloria says, “They took me to an office, gave me back my clothes, and shoved me onto the street.”. Another suspect, Gary Masse, had been convicted of the murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The day he was sentenced, Masse returned to prison, called the District Attorney’s office, and offered to testify against Gloria Killian, whom he alleged was the mastermind behind the crime. Gary Masse’s sentence was reduced to 25 years. Gloria Killian was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 32 years to life.
Gloria, lost all her appeals, and with it, her hope. “The worst was about seven years in,” she says. “It happens to lifers between five and seven years. I guess reality hits you in the face. You lose all hope. You lose everything.” Gloria was assigned to work in the law library, where she was able to assist fellow inmates without access to legal resources. The work kept her sane, she says, “I figured if I couldn’t help myself, at least I could help somebody else. It did a lot to distract me from my own particular disaster.”
After ten years a new investigation uncovered the evidence of Gary Masse’s agreement with prosecutors to testify against Gloria in exchange for leniency, which had never been disclosed to the defense. They also found a letter Masse had sent to the District Attorney soon after Gloria was sentenced--a letter stating, “I lied my ass off for you people.” Had the prosecution disclosed this evidence to the defense, Gloria would have been re-tried within a year. Instead, she served 17 and a half years before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her conviction.
Gloria continues to work for women in prisons, including her friends from the years she spent incarcerated. “We are like a family,” she says. “Once you get inside prison, it doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty or somewhere in between. What happens to us, it’s like being in a war zone. We band together to survive. We’ve taken that outside.”