Jail Escapee Travis Lee Davis Hightailed It Back to Missouri in a Stolen Truck, Sheriffs Say


Travis Lee Davis escaped March 9 from Pettis County Jail, authorities say. - MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL
  • Travis Lee Davis escaped March 9 from Pettis County Jail, authorities say.

A squirrel-poaching, cop-wrestling inmate who escaped jail in Sedalia hid out in a camper for several days after crashing a stolen police car in Oklahoma, authorities say.

Thirty-year-old Travis Lee Davis is still on the lam, but now officers believe he stole a pickup and returned home to rural mid-Missouri. Pettis County Sheriff's deputies found the truck abandoned early this morning in the northeastern part of the county.

Davis has been on the run since the night of March 9 when he is believed to have escaped the Pettis County Jail by climbing into the ceiling of his cell and forcing his way into a maintenance room, according to court documents. From there, he was able to slip outside and flee.

Davis resurfaced on Wednesday about 350 miles south in the parking lot of a gas station casino in Heavener, Oklahoma. A woman — later identified as Davis' girlfriend, Christole Hurst — told authorities there she had been kidnapped and her assailant was asleep in her car.

Davis was in jail for allegedly kidnapping and assaulting Hurst, who is pregnant, during a chaotic standoff in February. Authorities now suspect she may have helped him escape, and then called in the second (allegedly fake) kidnapping at the casino after she gambled away her money.

Heavener cops found Davis in Hurst's 2004 Cadillac, pulled him out, cuffed him and put him in the back seat of their patrol car. But they could not hold him for long. While deputies interviewed Hurst, Davis managed to work his hands from behind his back to the front of his 150-pound body, force open a partition in squad car cage and shimmy into the front seat, as LeFlore County, Oklahoma, Sheriff Rob Seale told the Riverfront Times last week. Davis then sped off, only to crash the cop car less than two miles away.

Seale originally suspected the wily escape artist may have hopped a passing freight train. He now says Davis likely ducked into a nearby creekbed and sprinted out of sight.

"He went across and had gotten inside a camper that was parked across a field in back of a house by some chicken houses," Seale told the RFT today in a follow-up interview.

Davis has a long history of running from law enforcement agents, who have tried to serve warrants or otherwise arrest him on charges ranging from domestic assault to illegal possession of wildlife.

Finding the Oklahoma camper was a lucky break for Davis. The trailer was basically a "ready-made safehouse," Seale says, stocked with food, extra clothes and even a jar with several hundred dollars in change. Outside was a red 2001 Dodge pickup with the keys in it. Authorities now think he spent two nights in the camper before stealing the pickup.

The owner's wife saw the Dodge heading down the road on Friday and called the sheriff's office. Seale says he had a deputy coming that way, but Davis must have turned off before he was intercepted. The escapee likely cut back through Heavener and into Arkansas before turning north into Missouri, the sheriff says.

Back in Pettis County, sheriff's deputies received a tip early Monday morning about a suspicious truck on some land west of Clifton City, which is in the northeast part of the county. They later found the red Dodge a couple of miles away on McFarland Road, authorities say. It had been abandoned.

Soon after, they learned it was the same truck that had been reported stolen from Heavener.

Seale has no doubt it was Davis who stole the truck. In the camper, his deputies found the t-shirt and gray pants the ex-con was wearing when he was last seen. There were signs Davis had been eating the food, and the change jar was gone.

Seale was surprised to hear Davis had apparently returned not only to Missouri but Pettis County, where he had originally escaped.

"I hope they can keep him up there," he says.

The Pettis County Sheriff's Office asks anyone with information to call 660-827-0052. The sheriff warns that Davis should be considered dangerous.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.

  • Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.