The lives of Timothy Davison, a 28-year-old Maine man trying to get home from Florida, and Amy Lou Buckingham, a 38-year-old West Virginia mother of three, were cut short by gunfire.
One man, John Wayne Strawser Jr., 39, of Terra Alta, West Virginia, allegedly squeezed the trigger in both cases.
Strawser has a more than 15-year criminal history of violence and obsessive behavior. Despite that, he served little time in jail prior to being accused of murder.
The criminal justice systems in West Virginia and Maryland had numerous opportunities to rehabilitate or incapacitate Strawser, including times that directly surround both killings.
Not to be lost in the tragedy of the deaths, however, are Strawser’s living victims.
The Sentinel was able to speak with three women who he allegedly stalked and harassed around the time of the two murders. All had complaints with authorities’ handling of their cases.
So, what went wrong?
Strawser’s criminal history is riddled with incidents where he became obsessive and controlling of the women with whom he was in relationships.
As far back as 2001, criminal records alleged Strawser bullied and intimidated women and became increasingly aggressive when those women attempted to leave the relationship.
In one case, he allegedly poured beer on one woman before stealing her truck by jamming his pocket knife into the ignition.
In another, he was accused of threating to cut an unborn child out of the woman.
For Treva Cline and Elizabeth Butler, whose cases were less than a year apart, the patterns were eerily similar.
In both incidents, Strawser was accused of becoming upset when they tried to end the relationship, and he showed up at their homes, destroyed their vehicles and stalked them during the night.
Strawser ended up serving more time in jail—five days—directly following a conviction for resisting arrest stemming from a DWI incident, than he did for terrorizing nearly 10 women.
“Generally speaking (authorities) think of these cases as nuisance cases and they’re annoying because you don’t understand them,” said Judy King, executive director of the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center. “So, they don’t take them seriously. They treat them like nuisance cases. Look at how much this guy got away with.”
He did not serve any jail time following a conviction until after he allegedly killed Davison – who police say was mistaken for the husband of a woman with whom Strawser had become obsessed.
Domestic violence accounts for roughly 15 percent of all violent crime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and more than 10,000 women were killed by an intimate partner between 2002 and 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 2002, Strawser was convicted of felony motor vehicle theft in Garrett County, Maryland, making him a person not to possess or own firearms.
That did not stop him from readily acquiring numerous weapons.
When Strawser was questioned by West Virginia State Police following the murder of Buckingham, he told them he had no idea how many firearms he owned because he had been actively buying, selling and trading weapons for years.
West Virginia does not require background checks for most private sales of firearms.
The Rossi Ranch Hand Strawser allegedly used to kill both Buckingham and Davison was purchased through a private sale sometime after 2012, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
Had Strawser been subject to a background check, his criminal record should have prohibited any sale.
Strawser was not charged as a person not to possess firearms, and was able to hand over numerous weapons to family members during the Cline domestic violence case without being charged or even authorities appearing aware that he was a convicted felon.
A Preston County Sheriff’s deputy found the Rossi inside Strawser’s home two weeks prior to the murder of Buckingham, picked it up and left without seizing the weapon, according to police. Strawser was on probation, had a peace order restricting his access to firearms and was a convicted felon at the time the gun was found.
Strawser’s case is not unique to West Virginia.
More than 100 people were charged with illegally possessing firearms in Cumberland County between 2010 and 2015, according to Cumberland County Insight.
Nearly 30 firearms were found inside Eric Whister’s home in Shippensburg after he was arrested on unrelated charges. Whister, 28, had previously been convicted of a domestic violence incident and was not allowed to own or possess firearms.
In April 2014, Roy Adams shot and killed his ex-wife’s boyfriend before turning the gun on himself near Greencastle in Franklin County. Adams had been released from prison four days prior to the murder/suicide and had been deemed a person not to possess firearms years earlier following a domestic violence incident, according to court records.
Strawser’s case was undoubtedly complex. It spanned multiple years, three states and numerous law enforcement agencies.
However, it appears to have been made even more complex by a lack of information sharing.
In April 2014, a little more than four months after Strawser allegedly shot and killed Davison on Interstate 81 near Greencastle, he was arrested for DWI in a 1997 Ford Ranger in Garrett County, Maryland, by the Garrett County Sheriff’s Department.
The truck was the same one Strawser is believed to have been driving the night of Davison’s murder and is currently residing in a Pennsylvania State Police impound lot, according to West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle records.
The information about Strawser’s arrest and subsequent incarceration in both Maryland and West Virginia were not passed on to Pennsylvania State Police.
Garrett County Sheriff Rob Corley, in explaining why the information was not shared, said Strawser was not a suspect in any other crimes that his department was aware of at the time of his arrest.
Strawser served one week in jail following his DWI arrest for a probation violation in West Virginia.
Strawser did not become a suspect in Davison’s killing until after he murdered Buckingham almost a year later, according to Franklin County District Attorney Matthew Fogal.
Proceedings against Strawser in Pennsylvania will begin after he is formally sentenced on Oct. 5 in West Virginia, Fogal said.