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Did a Damaged Fence Lead to a Bloody, Years-Long Battle Between Neighbors?
“There was no question as to what happened. Why it happened is a totally different issue,” said Gean Okada, former Los Angeles Co. Sheriff’s Sergeant, on Snapped.
Self-defense or murder? That was the question at the heart of the police investigation when Anthony "Tony" Davis, 51, turned up dead at the doorstep of his neighbor, 51-year-old Lennie Paul Tracey, around 3 a.m. on Sept. 24, 2011 in Santa Clarita, California.
Neighbors immediately told law enforcement the two had been in an ongoing feud for years, and it had escalated to restraining orders, surveillance cameras, and even floodlights shining into bedrooms.
“The night that my uncle Tony actually decided to walk over there, he was just like, ‘I give up. I just want this to end,’” said Josh Clinton, Tony Davis’ nephew, on Snapped, airing at 6/5c Sundays on Oxygen.
What sparked a feud that came to such a violent ending?
“It never should have gotten to the point where someone died behind this,” Gean Okada, former Los Angeles Co. Sheriff’s Sergeant, said on Snapped. “It’s ridiculous.”
What caused the feud between next-door neighbors Lennie Paul Tracey and Tony Davis?
Tony and Cindy Davis moved into their dream home in Canyon County, near Los Angeles, in 2003. Their next-door neighbors were Lennie Paul and Sandra Tracey. Although there was peace in the neighborhood at first, it didn’t last long. According to the couple’s nephew, the feud began with a large tire the Traceys were leaning against the fence they shared with the Davises.
“The fence was starting to bow in such a way that it was starting to create an opening in the fence, and my uncle was worried that the dogs were going to get through the fence,” Clinton said.
He said Tony Davis put a note on the Traceys' door asking them to move the tire.
“From that note on, it was cop calling and it was harassment,” Clinton said.
The complaints between the neighbors ranged from sprinklers getting the sidewalks wet, to trash cans not being immediately removed from the curb.
“The Davises tried to be friendly and talk through it, but the Traceys weren’t having it,” prosecutor Richard Gallegly claimed on Snapped.
Neighbors noticed the feud, including the Traceys’ other next-door neighbor, Nicole Soto. She said on Snapped that Lennie began harassing one of the Davis children.
“Some of his harassment tactics [included] things like standing out in the yard with the garden hose, and spraying her as she tried to walk by to go inside her home,” Soto said.
She also pointed to a holiday conflict.
“Christmastime, [the Davises] had their air conditioner decorated like a Christmas gift on top of the house,” Soto said. “And [Lennie] called the city and said they had to remove it because it was a hazard.”
By 2006, the Davises and Traceys had each filed restraining orders against each other. Both families had installed outdoor cameras and surveillance systems. And as the years went on, the feud escalated, particularly when the Traceys installed a speaker on their home that was pointed at the Davis home.
“So, all night there was extremely loud bird noises playing,” Clinton said. “The Traceys would take flood lights and they would strap them to the side of their house, and they would shine them directly into the bedroom windows all night. My uncle started sleeping in the living room on the couch to try to escape that.”
Police also found an infrared light installed on the Tracey house.
“It functionally blinded the video surveillance system of the Davises,” Gallegly said. “We believe that to be the triggering event.”
What happened the night Tony Davis was shot and killed by Lennie Paul Tracey?
Cindy Davis told police she had been watching television and fell asleep when she was awakened by her husband in the middle of the night on Sept. 24, 2011.
“He told her he was going to go next door and ask his neighbor Mr. Tracey to turn off that infrared light,” Gallegly said. “She didn’t think it was a big deal and she went back to sleep.”
She told officers she later heard two gunshots. When she ran outside, she saw her husband laying on the walkway near the front door of the Tracey home. She also alleged that Lennie came back out the front door and pointed a shotgun at her while she was tending to her husband.
“She said Mr. Tracey told her to leave or the same thing would happen to her,” Gallegly said.
Lennie Paul Tracey called 911 around 3 a.m., telling dispatchers, “I had to shoot somebody. It was a prowler.”
On the same 911 call, his wife, Sandra, could be heard saying to her husband, “You stupid fool, what the hell are you doing?”
When police and deputies arrived, Lennie still had the gun in his hand, and a standoff started when he refused to put the weapon down. Neighbors helped move Tony Davis away to the driveway, but EMS crews were unable to revive him. He had been shot once in the chest, and once in the back.
Inside the home, two shotgun shells were found by the front door. Although Lennie had claimed the shooting was in self-defense, police investigators said they found no evidence of forced entry or damage to the door.
Evidence of the feud was found along an outdoor wall/fence that separated the two homes.
“[There] were a number of professional quality signs that were highly inflammatory,” Gib Anderson, former Los Angeles Co. Sheriff’s Investigator, said on Snapped. “Made references to the Davises in an extremely demeaning and hateful light .. all I could think was how much time and effort went into the signs, and what level of commitment to this feud, if you will, had transpired over all those years.”
When Sandra Tracey was interviewed by police after the shooting, she pointed all of the blame at the Davises.
“Mrs. Tracey described fear of Mr. Davis, but yet, there was nothing to indicate that there was overt acts or any acts of violence,” Anderson said.
Sandra maintained her husband fired shots in self-defense. But police found holes in that theory, including the fact that Tony was shot first in the chest, then in the back while trying to run away. Police also found that the Traceys had tried to cover up evidence from their surveillance tapes. Before law enforcement arrived, someone removed the tape from the recorder and tried to hide it.
“If it was a legitimate self-defense, and you had the tape to prove it, you would say, ‘Please, come see the tape. It’ll show, it’ll justify everything that I’ve described to you,’” Anderson said.
On Sept. 27, 2011, Lennie Paul Tracey was charged with the murder of Tony Davis and assault for threatening Cindy Davis with a gun after the shooting.
"It became quite clear this case was anything but self-defense,” Anderson said. “The only logical explanation was that Mr. Tracey willfully executed Mr. Davis.”
On Nov. 7, 2012, a jury found Lennie Paul Tracey guilty of both counts. He was sentenced to 50 years to life for murder, and and additional 14 years for assault. He appealed, but in 2014 his conviction was upheld. While Sandra Tracey moved away from the neighborhood, Cindy Davis stayed.
“The most tragic part of this case is that they could have been best friends,” Gallegly said. “Instead, one person lost his life and the other one will be spending his life in prison.”
Lennie Paul Tracey will be eligible for parole in 2031 at the age of 71.
Watch all-new episodes of Snapped on Oxygen at 6/5c on Sundays and the next day on Peacock.