The Murder That Actually Did NOT Inspire Nirvana’s “Polly”

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A Brief History

On October 1, 1993, twelve-year old Polly Hannah Klaas (January 3, 1981 – October 1, 1993) was murdered under horrifying circumstances erroneously starting the rumor that Nirvana’s “Polly” was inspired by the event.

Digging Deeper

Californian Richard Allen Davis ranks among the legion of disgusting individuals who walk among us.  In his youth, he reportedly tortured cats and dogs with gasoline and knives.  From the 1970s through 1990s, his arrest record included everything from burglary to murder.  The most infamous of his crimes occurred on the fateful October in 1993.

Davis invaded Klaas’s slumber party where a knife-wielding Davis tied up Klaas’s two friends and kidnapped Klaas.  In the aftermath of her abduction, the case was featured on America’s Most Wanted (quite possibly one of the most useful television programs in human history).  Meanwhile, acclaimed actress Winona Ryder offered a $200,000 reward for Klaas’s safe return.  Sadly, Ryder’s hopes were dashed when police discovered that the dastardly Davis strangled poor Polly with a piece of cloth.

For committing such a heinous crime, Davis received a death sentence and is presently on death row at San Quentin State Prison.  For her part, Ryder dedicated her film version of Little Women to Polly Klaas, although claims that Nirvana’s “Polly” is named for her are unfounded.  Perhaps the most important national consequence of the case was its influence on the various Three Strikes Laws subsequently established in California and other states.

As we debut this website, we dedicate our first week of articles to Polly’s memory and to the memory of all children unjustifiably slain by such monsters as Davis.

Question for students (and subscribers): What else can be done to protect children from predators?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Proof

For more information on this disturbing case, please read Helen Kennedy, “Polly’s Smiling Killer Gets Death Sentence,” New York Daily News (6 August 1996).

To learn more about how to help other children who are victims to predators, please visit the Polly Klaas Foundation.


About Author

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.