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The Ghost Of David Coffin

This broadcast first aired on April 7, 2007. It was updated on June 19, 2007.

It was the night of Dec. 10th, 1996 when Megan Lee watched firemen struggle to gain control of the inferno at the home of her boyfriend David Coffin.

"His best friend came on the scene and I had to tell him that David was dead," she remembers.

"You see flames shooting out of the roof of your best friend's house. The feelings are horrible," Craig Foster remembers. Like Megan, he was also in disbelief.

As correspondent Maureen Maher reports, their grief and fear only deepened when fire officials revealed that David had died before the fire even started.

Adding to the horror, it was the second time that same day someone close to Megan was the victim of violence; the first incident involved her estranged husband, Scott Davis.

Davis told her he had been ambushed that evening, right in front of his house. "The person was wearing a ski mask, put a gun to his head, sprayed him in the face with Mace and said to stay away from Megan. And, my name is actually pronounced 'Meegan,'" she explains.

Now, hours later, Megan's soon-to-be ex-husband had even more bad news. He had been attacked a second time, and this time, the assailant had actually used his gun.

"The suspect turned around and shot at Scott Davis. Scott then returned fire with five rounds from a shotgun. And the suspect was able to hop the fence and run off," says Patrolman Michael O'Connor, who took the report.

Scott Davis also said that before all the shooting, the man set fire to the back of his house, by the patio. Davis managed to put it out, but the timing was terrifying-it was just hours after David's house was set aflame.

Homicide Detective Rick Chambers naturally suspected there had to be a link between the two victims. "The same person that killed David Coffin's gonna be the same person that attacked Scott. And so [we] wanted to get his story while it was still fresh in his mind," Chambers tells Maher.

Although she was connected to both victims, Megan could not imagine who would commit the crimes. Who would attack her estranged husband? And why would that same person cut down her new boyfriend, David Coffin, in the prime of his life?

David was a 41-year-old entrepreneur looking for business ventures in Atlanta when a friend introduced him to Megan.

Best friend Craig Foster began to wonder if David's bachelor days were numbered. "David and Megan did get serious rather quickly. She had a lot of qualities he desired," he explains.

But there was one rather sticky issue: Megan's divorce from Scott Davis was not yet final.

Coffin spent Thanksgiving week with his father, and told him about his new girlfriend. "He'd say, 'Dad, you'd love her," David Coffin, Sr. remembers.

Coffin's father, patriarch of a wealthy and established New England clan, was a cautious man and advised his son to take his time.

David Coffin, Sr. says his son told him the whole story, including Megan's impending divorce from Scott Davis, and acknowledges he was concerned.

In fact, Davis was not quite ready for divorce and was having a hard time letting Megan go. "He kept on talking about this line. 'Don't cross this line,'" Megan says. "The line was having an intimate relationship with somebody."

Asked if she was sleeping with David, Megan says, "And so I crossed that line."

After Thanksgiving, David returned to Atlanta and spent the next weekend at Megan's apartment.

That Sunday morning, David came home and found that someone had broken in. Most of his prized possessions were there, but a few were missing, including watches, guns and his beloved Porsche.

Two days later, David's house was torched and he was dead. In the wee hours, Megan went to the police station to give a statement. She wasn't alone, though. Scott Davis was there, too.
"He was the only person that had actually seen an assailant, or actually had a conversation with an assailant," says Det. Chambers.

But the more Davis spoke, the more suspicious Chambers grew about what he was saying, especially one critical detail. "He said, 'I didn't shoot him, I didn't shoot David,'" Chambers remembers. "I didn't know how David Coffin had died ... No one knew."

Chambers was convinced that the man who murdered David Coffin had given himself away. Even before investigators knew how David died, Scott Davis was telling them it was a gunshot.

And, he said that's what Megan, his estranged wife, had told him. "When I heard that from her, that's what, you know, that's what I thought I heard," Davis said during an audio-taped interview with Chambers.

Asked what he thought he heard Megan say, Davis told the detective, "That I thought I heard her tell me that he was shot."

But Megan said she had no idea how David died, and the detective in charge now seriously doubted Scott's claim that someone had also attacked him.

"Whoever had done this had killed one person and burned a house. Why did he let Scott live? You're gonna set a fire and try to burn somebody's house down, you're going to set it on their concrete patio?" Chambers asks.

Scott Davis was the prime suspect, but he was hardly a typical murder suspect. His father, Dr. Dave Davis, is a prominent Atlanta forensic psychiatrist, who made media appearances profiling criminals.

He now found himself defending his own son. "Scott has never been in trouble. He's never done anything like this. And I've never known him to be violent. The whole thing just seemed outrageous to me," Davis tells Maher.

Davis was a 24-year-old graduate student when he met 19-year-old Megan Lee. He was running for county commissioner and had just finished his MBA.

They dated for five years, but it was quite a rocky relationship. "We broke up a lot during our relationship. Always initiated by me. I just kept on feeling we weren't really connecting in the way that I wanted to connecting the way I wanted to connect," Megan explains.

After every break up, Davis would beg for another chance, often in writing.

Eventually, they got married. A European magazine featured their wedding with a photo spread, calling the event the "Perfect American Wedding...Hollywood- Style!"

Professionally, Scott Davis' star was rising as a technology consultant; but his personal life was soon in trouble.

"He seemed to lose interest in the relationship very, very quickly. So, I think he liked the chase more than he liked the prize. He didn't seem interested in me or our relationship at all the minutes we got married. In any area," Megan says.

After just two years, Megan filed for divorce and left him.

Davis reverted to old habits, pleading with her in multiple, often lengthy, letters-
letters that took an ominous turn when Scott got wind that Megan was hitting it off with a man he knew.

"Multiple dates with one person leads to expectations which do not bode well with me. This is especially true with a person such as Dave," Megan reads from one of Davis' letters. "If things with other men are getting sexual for you, I will never be able to forgive that considering we are married."

Davis was persistent to win back the affections of his estranged wife. But persistence seemed to turn to obsession in Dec. 1996, during that weekend David and Megan spent together at her apartment.

"Scott called Friday night five, six times in the middle of the night. Saturday night, he called 30 times," Megan recalls.

When David got home Sunday morning to find his house vandalized, he called police. But he and his friend Craig Foster thought they knew who was responsible.

"The only thing we could come up with was that Scott Davis had come over upset the night before because he knew that David was with Megan. And had ransacked the house," Craig says.

Craig advised David to back off from Megan until her divorce was final. "And he agreed. Now I don't know whether he ever could have done that, because I think David was falling in love with Megan at this point," he remembers.

That Tuesday night, Coffin was found dead. And within hours, Megan's estranged husband was talking to the police
On Wednesday, Scott left Megan one last desperate message. "I just got back from the police station. And they [are] really getting in my face. Said they thought I had somethin' to do with this. And I hope you don't believe that," he said during the message.

But Megan says she never called him back.

Three days after David Coffin's body was found, Scott Davis was arrested.

Chambers says he knows the case was strong. "He had motive, he had opportunity, and he was providing us with our case," he explains.

Attorney Bruce Morris began representing Scott Davis the day he became a murder suspect. "When I first met Scott. He was absolutely just unbelievably frightened that the police were focusing on him in a murder case," he recalls.

Morris was hired by psychiatrist Dave Davis, Scott's father.

Asked if he had ever met someone acting normally and suddenly snapped, Dr. Davis says, "Yeah, but I was talking to him through that period of time. He wasn't snapping."

But Det. Chambers says Scott came unhinged when his soon-to-be ex-wife starting showing serious interest in another man. "Scott Davis had everything he wanted all his life and the one thing he lost, couldn't stand it," Chambers says.

The detective believes Scott Davis killed David Coffin and then tried to cover his tracks by inventing a fictitious assailant.

Police used phone records and witness statements to create a timeline, showing that Davis had ample opportunity to execute the crimes.

On Saturday night, they believe, while David was with Megan, Davis ransacked David's home and took a few choice treasures, including that Porsche.

On Monday night, they say, Davis returned, this time to confront David. "I think he went there in an intention to scare him and a struggle ensued and Scott shot him," Chambers says.

Then, on Tuesday night, Chambers says Scott Davis returned again and set the fire.

But the timeline had a problem: David's stolen Porsche was also set on fire; it was found Tuesday morning, miles from where Scott Davis was seen at work.

"Scott could not have started the Porsche fire," his attorney Bruce Morris tells Maher.

After 90 days in jail, Scott posted a half-million-dollar bond and was released.

The pending case against Scott Davis had other setbacks: a gun taken in the burglary was found near David's body, but was too badly burned to have any prints on it.

And Davis' father says there was no physical evidence against his son - no DNA and no fibers.

A search of Scott Davis' house and car also came up empty.

The district attorney chose not to seek an indictment and, in June, 1998, 18 months after Scott Davis was arrested, the charges against him were dropped.

Scott Davis' divorce from Megan Lee was now final but Megan wasn't taking any chances and left town.

First, she moved to Minneapolis, but she still didn't feel safe. Eventually, she moved halfway around the world, to Sydney, Australia, which is about as far away from Atlanta-and from Scott Davis-as she could get.

Megan believes Scott Davis is responsible for David's death. "I would love to believe that it was anyone else other than the person that I'd been married to. But I know nothing else makes sense. And I've tried," she says.

Scott Davis also left Atlanta, and moved to Palo Alto, Calif., where he set up shop as a computer consultant.

But Scott Davis' newfound freedom was not sitting well with David Coffin, Sr. "I was not a happy camper," he admits.

He says he never suspected anyone but Scott Davis in the killing of his son.

Coffin made relentless efforts to keep the case active, offering substantial rewards to help solve the case.

But as the years passed, little new evidence surfaced. Megan was now happily married to an Australian man and had two children but she was never able to shake her past. "There has not been a day in ten years that I've not thought about the events of December '96, not a day," she says.

Scott, meanwhile, was getting ambitious. In 2003, California's governor was recalled, sparking a wild, free-for-all election. San Jose Mercury News reporter Josh Kwan got a tip to check out one of the 135 hopefuls: a candidate named Scott Davis.

When Kwan asked Scott Davis about his arrest for Coffin's murder, Davis told him the charges had been dropped. There was no evidence against him.

"He said 'This wouldn't have happened to me if it wasn't for my ex-wife.' He said that Megan, his ex-wife was the one who sort of incited the police to go after him," Kwan remembers.

With his past outed, Scott Davis gave up his run for governor. But he was now under new scrutiny in Atlanta.
Enter prosecutor Sheila Ross. She was heading a cold case unit and taking a fresh look at the old evidence.

"When I looked at everything, I was literally disgusted. I was disgusted that he had gotten away with it," Ross tells Maher.

The state had virtually no new evidence against Scott Davis. But there was now a very determined prosecutor. "The defendant is wealthy. He's wealthy and comes from a very good family here in Atlanta. And that creates a whole new dynamic ... it's a different dynamic. Because wealthy people have advantages that poor people do not have and they work the legal system," Ross says.

The Fulton County district attorney convened a grand jury, and the jury returned an indictment. In Nov. 2005, Scott Davis was arrested again and charged with murder.

Davis was able to post a million-dollar bond and was released.

Ten long years after David Coffin's house was set on fire, Scott Davis was finally standing trial for murder. But he says he felt confident that he would be acquitted, reiterating that he is innocent.

Prosecutor Sheila Ross knows there is no physical evidence and defense attorney Bruce Morris wastes no time pointing that out.

Most of that evidence burned in the house fire. And virtually all the evidence that was collected-more than forty items-has been lost or discarded by the state. Only photographs remain.

"And you believe that any one of these items, had you had access to them, could have exonerated Scott?" Maher asks Morris.

"Certainly could have helped us with leads, yes," he replies.

But Ross contends she can prove that Davis had a motive to kill. "He was a competitive man who wasn't going to lose his wife to the likes of David Coffin and he targeted the competition and he hunted his competition, he stalked his competition, and he ultimately killed him," she says.

Ross calls Scott's former wife, Megan Lee, to the stand. The woman Davis once so doggedly pursued, has voluntarily flown in from Australia for the trial.

Asked how important Megan is to the prosecution's case, Ross tells Maher, "Megan is the motive ... I think the case would have been very difficult without her."

Over the course of three grueling days, Megan testifies about her failed marriage. She listens to Scott Davis' messages pleading for her to come home and tells jurors about Scott's fixation with the new man in her life.

Perhaps most important to the state's case, Megan contends that when she told Scott Davis about the fire at David's house, he said something very incriminating.

"He said, 'Oh, my God. The police are here with me. And they said they had just come from a scene in Buckhead where a guy had been shot in the head and his house had been burned down,'" Megan testified on the stand.

David was shot in the head? That comment Scott allegedly made is key to the case, because, at the time the police didn't even know how David died. The question is: did Scott Davis slip up and say something only the killer would know?

Megan says she is 100 percent certain her ex-husband told her.

Remember, Scott said it was Megan who told him about the shooting.

"If Megan knew first, how do you think Megan knew that information?" Maher asks Morris.

"I don't know, is the answer," the defense attorney says.
Megan admits that she initially told police she didn't know how David died. In all the horror, she says, she forgot. But she now remembers she told friends about the shooting after talking with Scott Davis.

She maintains she did not tell Davis that David had been shot in the head.

Asked if he thinks Megan is lying, Morris tells Maher, "I think Megan said it. Whether she was hysterical and doesn't remember it, or is lying about it, I don't know."

But Sheila Ross says the real liar is Scott Davis. He did himself in, she says, by spinning an elaborate tale about being a victim. "Like he's being haunted by the ghost of David Coffin. And he started realizing all of the mistakes that he may have made in perpetrating the crime. And then he impulsively tries to cover up what he had done," she says.

Police testify they found nothing to corroborate Scott Davis' story, no evidence that someone took a shot at him, and no signs that he had shot an assailant, despite his claims that he shot at someone five times in his small backyard.

"Getting shot with a shotgun is fairly traumatic so it should have left some indication if he had been hit. And we didn't locate anything like that," Patrolman Michael O'Connor testifies.

Ross says Scott Davis kept digging himself a deeper hole. "It's his impulsiveness that did him in because he's always trying to outthink the police. He's trying to outthink everybody. Outsmart everybody," she says.

She says Davis even tried to enlist a friend to provide a false alibi. Instead, that friend turned on Scott Davis and called the authorities.

But Christine Bradley, a paralegal on his team whom Scott Davis has been dating, insists there was nothing to cover-up. "I was sitting next to an innocent man," she says.

When the defense lays out its case, Dr. Davis takes the stand. He tells jurors about the toll the accusations first took on his son ten years ago.

"He was sounding panicked and terrorized. I never ever heard him like that before," Dr. Davis testifies. "I think its consistent with being accused of a crime he did not commit."

Davis also provides his son an alibi for Saturday evening, around the time the state believes David's house was ransacked. "He came over to my house," Dr. Davis testifies. "It was around 6:30, I remember I was watching the news."

That takes prosecutor Kellie Hill by surprise. Dr. Davis acknowledged on the stand that it was the first time he had told anyone in law enforcement that his son was at his house on Dec. 7th.

Sheila Ross says she thinks Dave Davis was lying.

But the state cannot dismiss the fact that David's stolen Porsche was found burning around the time Scott Davis had a meeting at work.

"Scott Davis may not have lit the actual match to the Porsche," Ross says. Asked if she believes Davis got somebody else's help, Ross says. "I absolutely believe that it is possible that somebody else helped him. Yes."

After nearly six weeks in court, and more than 60 witnesses, the trial ends without Scott Davis taking the stand.
After the case went to the jury, hours turn into days, then the court recesses for the weekend with no verdict.

The following Monday, after nearly four days of deliberations, jurors reached a verdict: guilty.

It's a bittersweet victory for David's father, David Coffin, Sr.

But for Scott Davis parents, it's a devastating blow. "When the jury walked in the room, I could tell by the look on their faces not one person looked at us," Dr. Davis tells Maher. "My heart sank. I couldn't believe it."

And Davis' girlfriend Christine can't believe it either. "I was absolutely not prepared for a guilty verdict," she says.

While Christine faces an uncertain future, Megan is finally able to come to terms with her past.

"I just felt like, 'Oh my God. I'm not scared anymore.' And I don't think I was truly sort of recognizing how scared I was. Until they said, 'We find Scott Davis guilty,'" she says.

The sentence is mandatory: life in prison.

But just before he is led away, Scott Davis addresses the court for the first time. "I have nothing but sympathy for the coffin family, however, I've maintained my innocence throughout this and I still maintain my innocence," he said.

After his conviction, Scott Davis asked his girlfriend to read a letter he had written to "48 Hours:" "I can't explain in words the horrible feeling of being sentenced to life in prison for a crime you didn't commit," Christine reads. "I will fight with all my strength and courage to re-gain my deserved freedom. Until then, I will not rest."

Christine says she will stand by Davis and is not planning to leave him.

But she may be waiting a long time. David's father is determined to keep Scott Davis right where he is.

"As far as I know this is the last picture that was ever taken of David that was two weeks before he passed away," Coffin, Sr. says, as he is showing pictures to "48 Hours." It was on that fateful weekend that his son told him about the new woman in his life, Megan Lee.

"He said to his father about you, 'This might be the real deal.' How do you feel about that?" Maher asks Megan.

"When he died, we never had a first fight. We never had a disagreement," she replies. "So he died a perfect man."

Scott Davis will be eligible for parole in 2020. He'll be 55. His attorneys are planning an appeal.

No one has claimed the $300,000 reward offered by the Coffin family.
Produced By Allen Alter, Daria Hirsch and Gail Zimmerman

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