Criminologist talks about interviewing Tyler hospital serial killer William Davis

KLTV's Julian Esparza talks with criminologist Bryanna Fox about interviewing Tyler hospital serial killer William Davis.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 12:32 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A new docu-series revisits the case of a Tyler hospital serial killer, William Davis. Criminologist Dr. Bryanna Fox speaks about her death row interview with him for the show.

In October 2021, a jury found William Davis, the former East Texas nurse, guilty of murdering patients during his time working at a Tyler heart hospital.

Fox has studied criminology for 15 years, focusing on psychological and developmental criminology to explain why people become offenders. She is also a professor at the University of South Florida.

“As a professor and a former FBI agent, I was constantly asked if...the major shows that people see on TV are real,” Fox said. Those questions led her to create a class on how forensics are actually handled during investigations, and people’s interest in the lectures inspired “The Lesson is Murder.”

She described what it was like to interview someone on death row, as she did with Davis.

“You don’t have a lot of time. I was given an hour,” Fox said, explaining how it can be a challenge to get people to open up. She said Davis, however, was ready to talk. “He really just wanted his story to be out there.”

Fox said another factor in a true crime interview is how to engage with someone who is known to have committed disturbing acts. “You can’t think about the crime,” she said. “You have to think about your goals.” And for Fox, those goals were “to get the truth, to get some facts.”

She also intended to bring some closure to those who knew him and couldn’t understand why he made the choices he did. Besides Davis himself, she interviewed his mother, his ex-wife and the victims’ families — people ingrained in his life and impacted by his crimes.

“The first [thing I wanted to ask him], hands down, was what in his mind made him commit these crimes,” Fox said. “Is he somebody who went on a really bad path and maybe could have been saved, or is it just one of those rare cases where there’s just no redemption?”

“I was surprised that Will at least showed remorse; he acted upset,” Fox said, “and we can go in to debate the validity of that. Does he really feel remorse, or is he just that good at faking it? And, maybe some other people are just bad at faking it.” Fox said her series examines these questions in more depth.

The broad goal of her work is to gather information that can contribute to preventing future crimes.

“People have to understand there’s not one profile of what makes a serial killer,” Fox said. “They don’t fit neatly in those boxes of a ‘psychopath.’ There are people walking amongst us, and you’d never think they’d be capable of these types of crimes. Or, take serial killing off the table. How about abusing their kids, or lying or stealing at work, or just doing things that are harmful to society? People are capable of these things, and so, little things matter. Finding those small aberrations and noticing them, and putting them together and putting weight into them — I’m not saying to be paranoid and walk around at all times like everyone’s bad — but when you start noticing things accumulating, it’s really important to say, ‘What can we do to help?’ or then report it to people that can help. There’s really no downside to doing this because you may be able to intervene and save, if not that person who’s maybe in crisis or struggling, you could save whoever they may be harming.”

A new TV series revisits the case of a Tyler hospital serial killer, William Davis.