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This article is from the In-Depth Report Technology and the Emerging Post-Privacy Era

Colorado "Spam King" Dead in Apparent Murder/Suicide

Edward Davidson reportedly shot his wife and daughters before turning the gun on himself after escaping from minimum-security prison



Courtesy of the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

In a tragic turn of events, police yesterday found convicted "spam king" Edward "Eddie" Davidson dead, along with his wife and three-year-old daughter in Bennett, Colo., the victims of an apparent murder/suicide. The incident occurred four days after Davidson, 35, escaped from a minimum-security prison in Florence, Colo., 130 miles (209 kilometers) away as his wife Amy Lee Ann Hill, 29, was leaving after visiting him. The two drove off in Hill's Toyota SUV, which was later found at the murder scene.

Davidson had been serving a 21-month sentence for tax evasion and falsifying computer records. (He also had been ordered to pay about $715,000 in fines to the Internal Revenue Service.) He served less than two months before giving the guards the slip on July 20, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado.

Officers who discovered the bodies found an unharmed seven-month-old boy still sitting in his car seat. Davidson also shot his 16-year-old daughter in the neck at the murder scene before she fled the SUV and ran to a neighbor's house. The Arapahoe County (Colo.) Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the crime, has not identified the baby or released details on his relationship to Davidson. Both survivors were taken to local hospitals for treatment. The teenager was listed in stable condition.

Davidson had a decadelong history of running fraudulent businesses over the Internet. He was also arrested in November 1998 and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery of Mary Davidson, 34, his wife at the time.

According to his plea agreement, he owned a business named Power Promoters that between July 2002 and April 2007 sent large volumes of unsolicited commercial electronic messages (aka spam) to promote client companies. The U.S. Attorney's Office said that initially his spamming pushed products such as watches and perfume. In 2005 he graduated to promoting penny stocks on behalf of small public companies, sending hundreds of thousands of unsolicited e-mail messages to potential purchasers worldwide. The e-mail messages contained false header information that concealed the actual sender from the recipients.

The U.S. Attorney's Office recommended that Davidson's sentence be cut by one-third in exchange for his cooperation in helping bring down fellow Internet criminal and former business partner, Darrel Uselton, 41, of Katy, Tex. The latter was charged with organized crime and money laundering; his trial is scheduled to begin in Texas on September 29. Davidson had agreed to testify against Uselton, according to a motion filed by the feds with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, which recommended that Davidson's sentence be reduced.

In addition to giving the government information about his illegal spamming activities between 2003 and 2006, Davidson provided details on his methods, systems and programs that he and other spammers used to commit their crimes. He told prosecutors that Uselton operated a penny-stock fraud scheme from his Houston-based company, Warrior Capital, LLC, during 2005 and 2006.

Davidson used the Internet to send thousands of unsolicited e-mails promoting stocks of various companies for which Uselton controlled an equity interest. Uselton compensated Davidson based on the corresponding increase in the volume of stock sales. Davidson also helped Uselton artificially manipulate the price of stock in the market using false press releases and other financial news. Uselton scored more than $4.6 million during his 20-month stock fraud campaign, according to the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission.

America Online, Playboy Enterprises and Yahoo! had all sued Davidson at some point since 1997. The Yahoo! complaint was dismissed, but Davidson was ordered to pay AOL $1.58 million for flooding its network with e-mailed pitches for "generic Viagra" and using the company's systems as an advertising vehicle without paying for it. He was also ordered to pay Playboy $120,000 for copyright infringement after the company accused him of posting some of its nude photos on his Web sites.

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