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Motive In Murder Of Texas Air Force Sergeant, Who Was Stabbed 41 Times, Remains A Mystery
Michael Severance’s body was found at the bottom of pond weighted down with car parts, tires, and cinder blocks.
Michael Severance was a small-town boy who joined the United States Air Force to see the world. He served admirably during the war in Afghanistan before moving to Texas and starting a family.
Ironically, that’s when it all went wrong.
“He survived Afghanistan, but the same evil got him at home in his own bed,” his father, Leslie Severance, told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Severance grew up in Lee, Maine, not far from the Canadian border. He was an accomplished skier and good at anything “on wheels,” according to his brother, Frank Severance.
After graduating from high school, Severance’s father encouraged him to see what lay beyond the narrow confines of his hometown. Like his father, he joined the Air Force and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a crew chief on a C-130 military transport aircraft and attaining the rank of staff sergeant.
Severance was deployed five times, including what the Bangor Daily News described as “three deployments in direct support of the global war on terror.”
After several years overseas, he was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. The North Woods Mainer took to the Lone Star State.
“Michael absolutely loved Texas,” Leslie told “Snapped.”
Severance quickly learned how to line dance and two-step after realizing it was a great way to meet women. In 2003, he met Wendi Mae Davidson, who grew up on a ranch in San Angelo, Texas and came from a tight-knit family.
Davidson loved working with animals and attended Texas A&M University with the intention of becoming a veterinarian. Although she worked hard in school, she also enjoyed the freedom of being away from home and partied like any other college student.
During college, Davidson became pregnant and gave birth to a son. As a single mother, she graduated and began a successful veterinary career.
Severance and Davidson were a study in contrasts — the energetic and outgoing Texan, and the stoic Northeastern military man — but things moved fast for the couple. Just a few months into their relationship, Davidson became pregnant.
Despite the shock, they were excited to have a child together, especially Severance who “was definitely excited to be a dad,” according to his brother.
“He really loved kids,” Frank told “Snapped.”
In September 2004, mere weeks after the birth of their son, Severance and Davidson were married at a Texas courthouse. The newlyweds moved into an apartment in the back of a San Angelo veterinary clinic that Davidson had recently purchased.
Severance and Davidson were planning a trip back east to Maine in early 2005. It would be his family’s first opportunity to meet Davidson and the kids.
“We had a little wedding reception-type thing planned for them. Everybody was excited and happy,” Frank told “Snapped.”
“We were just waiting for the oldest boy because he had never seen snow,” Leslie told “Snapped.”
They were due to arrive on Jan. 16, 2005, but Davidson called Severance’s family and said he had disappeared. They urged her to report him missing, and in an interview with the San Angelo Police Department, Davidson claimed she last saw him the morning of Jan. 15 and that he had left behind his car and cellphone.
She claimed Severance had been drinking a lot because he was being deployed to Afghanistan and that he may have run away.
Police in San Angelo contacted the Texas Rangers for investigative assistance, but neither unit generated any significant leads. Leslie then reached out to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which he likens to “a mini-CIA”
Special Agent Greg McCormick contacted Severance’s superiors at Dyess Air Force Base who insisted he wasn’t the deserting type.
“Greg calls me back, he said to me, very matter-of-factly, ‘I think something’s up,’” Leslie told “Snapped.”
Severance was on leave at the time, however, and an official OSI inquiry could not begin until he was due back on base.
Authorities learned there was significant tension between Severance and his mother-in-law, Judy Davidson, who worked as an office manager in her daughter’s veterinary practice. When investigators interviewed Judy, she was frank about her opinion of Severance.
“I’m not going to lie — I didn’t like him. Never did. Never will,” she is heard saying in interview footage obtained by “Snapped.”
Although Judy wasn’t shy about her dislike for her son-in-law, there was no evidence tying her to his disappearance, and the trail went cold until Jan. 24, when Severance’s period of leave expired and OSI was able to take the lead in the investigation.
“The OSI became involved because in addition to Michael Severance being a missing person, he also didn’t show up for work in the Air Force,” Texas Ranger Shawn Palmer told “Snapped.” “It made him AWOL and ultimately a deserter investigation for them.”
The OSI with San Angelo PD performed a search of the couple’s home and Davidson’s veterinary practice, retrieving the hard drive from her computer. It revealed that she had performed Internet searches on polygraph tests and the phrase "decomposition of a body in water," according to court documents.
As an arm of the U.S. military, the OSI is unconstrained by the same laws as local police and put a GPS tracker on Davidson’s car. They found she repeatedly visited a sprawling livestock ranch outside town that belonged to a friend of the family. During one visit, she stopped near a pond on the property.
While an initial search of the property found nothing, Davidson was interviewed again to discuss her internet searches and the ranch. When asked about the pond, officers said she “got kind of defensive,” according to court documents.
Following the interview, she drove to the ranch, where she was intercepted by authorities and barred from entering the property.
That evening, Davidson’s brother contacted the San Angelo Police Department. He told them that after police caught Davidson at the ranch, she met up with him and their parents. He said Davidson then confessed to dumping the body.
She claimed, however, that she did not kill Severance — she said she found him deceased and moved his remains to the pond.
Davidson was quickly taken into custody, but she refused to be interviewed and requested an attorney. The next morning, Severance's body was found in the bottom of the pond.
“It had been nearly two months since Michael had been reported missing, but the body was in pristine condition,” Palmer told “Snapped.”
He had been stabbed 41 times, wounds which were inflicted postmortem in order to keep his body from floating to the surface of the pond. He was then weighed down with car parts, tires, and cinder blocks.
An autopsy revealed Severance's blood contained lethal levels of animal tranquilizers, which Davidson had easy access to at her veterinary clinic. Davidson was subsequently charged with first-degree murder and two counts of tampering with evidence, according to the Associated Press.
Rather than take a chance on a jury trial, Davidson pleaded no contest in October 2006. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison, according to Texas CBS affiliate KBTX-TV.
To this day, Davidson maintains her innocence. She was denied parole in 2019, and her next eligible parole date is in May 2024.
Davidson’s parents currently have custody of her two sons. Severance’s son spends school breaks and every other Christmas with his father’s family in Maine, according to the Bangor Daily News.
The Severance family still has many questions about his murder, including Davidson’s motive.
“I think there’s more to the story that we don’t know,” Frank told “Snapped.”
To hear more, watch “Snapped” now on Oxygen.com.