Captain Ray Davis, hiding in plain sight

The U.S. naval officer wanted by Chilean authorities for his alleged involvement in the deaths of two American citizens during the 1973 military coup may have died in a Santiago nursing home. Captain Ray E. Davis, former commander of the U.S. military group in Chile, had been charged with complicity in the deaths of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi (see earlier posts:  and The Associated Press contacted his wife, who is—or was—living in Florida and she said her husband was suffering from Alzheimer’s and in a nursing home.

But that nursing home may have been in Chile, not Florida. The New York Times reports that a death certificate issued in Santiago indicates that Davis, 88, died of “multisystemic failure” on April 30 of this year and that American Embassy officials were unaware he was even in the country until they were informed of his death. Davis apparently arrived at the nursing home about the same time as a Chilean judge issued an indictment, charging that he had given information on Horman and Teruggi to Chilean intelligence officers.

Horman’s widow Joyce is understandably suspicious, and wants proof that Davis’s navy pension has been cancelled (although Davis’s widow may still be receiving payments).

Here’s  a link to the Horman family’s web site:

The slow, slow pace of international justice

Charles Horman, a filmmaker and Frank Teruggi, a student, were both killed in Chile’s National Stadium in the aftermath of the 1973 military coup.

This week Chile’s Supreme Court, by a vote of 4-1, authorized a judge to request the extradition of a retired U.S. naval officer implicated in the killing of two Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, in wake of the 1973 military coup. (See earlier posts, and

It was last November that Judge Jorge Zepeda announced he would seek Captain Ray Davis’s extradition, and according to information posted on its website the Supreme Court would consider the request within a few days. Now, almost a year later the Supreme Court has finally made its ruling.

So what now?  The case goes to Chile’s Foreign Ministry, which must then present the extradition request to U.S. authorities.

An extradition request

Last November Chilean judge Jorge Zepeda, who has been investigating the case of two American citizens killed during the country’s 1973 military coup, said he was seeking the extradition of former U.S. naval attache Captain Ray E. Davis in the case. The Americans, graduate student Frank Teruggi and filmmaker Charles Horman, were arrested and taken to the National Stadium in Santiago where they were both executed. Horman’s case became the basis for the 1982 film Missing, directed by Costa-Gavras.

Davis, now in his mid-80s, is known to have met Horman and his wife in the days following the coup. But Davis’s wife, when contacted at their home in Florida, said he was suffering Alzheimer’s and living in a U.S. nursing home.  She would not say which one.

Then everything seemed to go quiet. Zepeda has a considerable backlog of unsolved human rights cases in his files, including that of missing Penn State mathematics professor Boris Weisfeiler.  But this past week Zepeda asked Chile’s Supreme Court to approve the extradition request for Davis, who is known to have been in contact with one of the dead Americans, filmmaker Charles Horman.  The judge said that Horman’s killing “happened during secret operations against American citizens and was part of Ray E. Davis’s intelligence activities.”  According to the Chilean Supreme Court web site (, the extradition request will be considered within the next few days.

For more on the Charles Horman case:

For more on the Boris Weisfeiler case:

Captain Davis and “el caso Missing”

Charles Horman, a freelance filmmaker, was one of two American arrested and killed in the aftermath of Chile’s 1973 military coup.

In 1980 I was at a lunch hosted by the Chilean-American Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, when a man sitting across the table began talking nervously about a book in which his name appeared.  Lies, he told the man sitting to my left, who nodded sympathetically.  Retired U.S. navy captain Ray Davis, formerly head of the US. Military Mission in Chile, had settled in Santiago and had his own version of what transpired during the country’s 1973 military coup.

I happened to have read the book in question, Thomas Hauser’s The Execution of Charles Horman, which describes the arrest and killing of a young freelance filmmaker, his family’s search for him, and the seriously unhelpful actions of the U.S. Embassy in Chile.  Horman and a friend had been in the coastal resort town of Vina del Mar when the coup occurred, and it was Davis who had given them a ride back to Santiago.  A nice gesture, perhaps, but Davis’s actions over the next several days seem questionable at best.  He went to the hotel where Horman had stayed and confiscated his registration card.  He also invited Horman’s wife Joyce and the Hormans’ friend Terry Simon to his home for dinner, claiming that a Chilean admiral who could help them find Charles would also be there.  The admiral never appeared.

I should have made some attempt to talk to Davis, but was too startled to do more than keep my eyes down and listen.

“And now there’s going to be a movie,” he was saying.  The film based on the book, Costa-Gavras’s Missing, was released two years later,  and won an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay as well as Oscar nominations for Jack Lemmon (who played Horman’s father) and Sissy Spacek (who played Horman’s wife).  Missing takes some liberties with real life events, with Joyce Horman renamed Beth and shown being caught by the curfew and taking shelter in a stairwell the night before her husband’s arrest.  But in a 2006 documentary film, Cruel Separation, she said she had in fact gone “to say goodbye to friends” that day and stayed that night before returning to find their house ransacked and her husband missing.  Davis is not mentioned by name in the film—though there is a character clearly based on him—and even Chile is not mentioned.  But Davis, former U.S. ambassador Nathaniel Davis and former U.S. consul Fred Purdy filed a $150 million lawsuit for libel against Costa Gavras and Universal Studios, which was eventually dismissed.

Fast forward nearly two decades and the United States declassifies and releases hundreds of documents on Chile, and some of them contain disturbing information about the case. As one cable states:

“There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest U.S. intelligence may have played an unfortunate part in Horman’s death. At best, it was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the GOC [government of Chile]. At worst, U.S. intelligence was aware the GOC saw Horman in a rather serious light and U.S. officials did nothing to discourage the logical outcome of GOC paranoia.”

There is a review of the circumstances surrounding Horman’s arrest and killing, and Captain Davis, now back in the United States,  is questioned.  Why had he taken Horman’s hotel registration card?  Davis at first denies having done so, but when shown the incriminating US document changes his story and says, “I don’t see why it’s important.”

This week a Chilean prosecutor, Judge Jorge Zepeda, announced he was seeking Davis’s extradition as part of his investigation into the death of Charles Horman and another young American, Frank Teruggi.  In his ruling Zepeda, who has been investigating the case since 2003 and has made extensive use of the U.S. declassified documents, said that Captain Davis could have prevented the killings of the two Americans “given his coordination with Chilean agents.”  The country’s Supreme Court will have to authorize the extradition request, and the American. Embassy in Santiago  said the United States  “continues to support a thorough investigation into the Horman and Teruggi deaths in order to bring those responsible to justice.”