Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
Jack davis jr1

Jack Davis Jr.

Real Name: John Allen Davis Jr.
Nicknames: Jack
Location: Indiana, Pennsylvania
Date: October 16, 1987


Details: Twenty-year-old Jack Davis Jr. was a sophomore at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), majoring in business. He was also a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. At around 10:10pm on the evening of Wednesday, October 21, 1987, authorities found him dead, sprawled at the bottom of a twenty-step, seldom-used exterior stairwell leading to the basement entrance of IUP’s Weyandt Hall.
Jack had last been seen the previous Friday night, October 16. He attended a party at a sorority house with some of his fraternity brothers, then made the rounds at a few local bars. Another student, noticing he was drunk, walked him to IUP’s Elkin Hall. He never returned to his off-campus apartment. His roommates reported him missing Monday night, but a search of the campus was not done until Wednesday evening.
Jack’s body was autopsied by a local pathologist. The toxicology report, a routine check for unnatural substances in the body, was completed at a lab out of state. The autopsy and test results were forwarded to Indiana County Coroner Thomas Streams. He ruled that Jack’s death was accidental.
Streams says there were traces of cocaine and marijuana in Jack’s system. He says that the body was not in disarray from a fight. There were no defensive wounds or signs of a struggle. There were no drag marks. He says that other than a small bruise above one eyebrow, there was nothing “remarkable” about the body.
According to Streams, the official scenario was that Jack wandered down into the stairwell in an intoxicated state, perhaps to urinate. While at the bottom of the stairwell, he collapsed, hit his head, lost consciousness, vomited, inhaled the vomit into his lungs, and asphyxiated. The official report concluded that he died at about 2am Saturday morning, several hours after he disappeared. His body apparently lay in the stairwell for nearly five days.
Jack’s father could not believe or comprehend that Jack could have died that way. He was told that it was a common occurrence. He finds that hard to believe. After his death, Jack’s parents and stepmother took him home to Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, and laid him to rest. Even as his family grieved, their doubts about the official findings began to grow. But for more than two years, they pushed aside their concerns.
Then, a local reporter began to publicly question the coroner’s ruling. Finally, Jack’s family turned to Dr. Cyril Wecht, one of the country’s top forensic pathologists. He says that before he got into the medical aspects of the case, he was just puzzled “as a matter of common sense.” He wondered how a body could be lying outside on a college campus in the early fall for five days, unseen and unnoticed by anybody.
The other thing that puzzled Dr. Wecht was the claim that Jack, in the early hours of the morning, walked fifteen steps down a landing and then five more steps to urinate. He says that inebriated young men normally would not do that, especially if it is early in the morning and no one is around. He does not think that Jack would have had the discretion and personal sensitivity to hide himself.
Almost immediately, Dr. Wecht found glaring discrepancies in the autopsy report. Although, by all accounts, Jack had been drinking heavily on the night he supposedly died, absolutely no alcohol was found in his blood. And only small amounts were found in his stomach and urine. Dr. Wecht says that whatever blood alcohol level a person has at the time of their death will be the level that is found later on. He says there was no doubt Jack had been drinking that night, and nobody challenged that.
According to Dr. Wecht, in order for Jack to have wound up with no alcohol in his blood at the time of his death, he would have had to have been alive for about thirty hours after his last drink. The fact that there was no alcohol in his blood indicates to Dr. Wecht that he did not die at the time the police theorized. This extra time would place his death around Sunday afternoon or later, not Saturday morning. Streams, however, said that the blood had decomposed, which may have caused issues with the results.
Dr. Wecht found other evidence that argued against a Saturday morning death. Jack was clean-shaven Friday night when he was last seen. But when his body was found, there was a heavy beard stubble on his face. Dr. Wecht also found that Jack was suffering from pneumonia, which indicated he had been alive and ill for some period of time. There was one final discrepancy: the autopsy slides of his lungs. They provided stunning evidence that the presumed cause of death, choking on regurgitated food, was nothing short of impossible.
Dr. Wecht says that if a coroner is going to list “choking on regurgitated food” as a cause of death, then they would have to find food particles deep inside the small terminal air passageways. However, this was not present in Jack’s case. The other thing about the autopsy that stood out to Dr. Wecht was the fact that Jack’s head had not been examined. The pathologist who did the autopsy had not opened up the cranial vault.
According to Streams, the pathologist who performed the initial autopsy went as far as he felt he had to go to find a conclusive cause of death. When the pathologist opened Jack’s chest and examined the internal organs, he noticed the aspiration of stomach contents into the lungs. Therefore, he felt that that was an independent and conclusive cause of death. As a result, he did not open the skull.
Jack’s mother, Elaine Davis-Lynch, says that at that time, they all agreed as a family and with Dr. Wecht that Jack’s body needed to be exhumed. She says it was the only way they could find out the true cause of death. In Fall 1990, the exhumation took place. When Dr. Wecht opened up Jack’s skull, he found three fractures, “three areas of skull fracture with significant bleeding overlying the brain.”
The largest fracture was three inches long and went vertically along the back of the skull. Dr. Wecht says that the fractures and the bleeding were the causes of death. This had not been discovered before because the head had not been examined in the first autopsy. He found no other significant injuries. He believes the fractures were more consistent with a fall than a blow to the head. However, he does not rule out the latter possibility.
Slides and lab work can only tell part of the story. With a university official, Dr. Wecht visited the stairwell where Jack’s body was found. He realized that Jack could not have accidentally fallen down it or been thrown from a great height because he would have had eggshell, depressed-type fractures. It also did not appear that he had stumbled down the steps because there was no pattern of abrasions, bruises, or contusions.
Approximately 200 students were in rooms overlooking the stairwell during the days Jack supposedly lay below. However, not one person reported seeing his body. In fact, one witness told his family that the stairwell was empty two days before his body was found. There was one final problem with the official scenario: the weather. During the two days before his body was found, heavy rain fell on the campus. Despite this, his clothes were not wet. Dr. Wecht says there was a real problem in explaining how Jack could have been lying there for all those days, in rainwater, with dry clothes.
Dr. Wecht says it is more likely that Jack died or was injured elsewhere and was then placed at the bottom of the steps. He says that he bases this on known facts. His critical findings convinced authorities to reopen the case in October 1990. However, District Attorney William Martin suspended the new investigation soon after. He said that Jack’s family had told the news media about the investigation being reopened (when he had asked them not to), which may have given potential suspects a “heads up” and kept people from speaking to investigators.
In November 1990, based on the results of the second autopsy, Martin reclassified Jack’s death as “suspicious.” However, according to Sgt. Anthony Antolik of the Indiana Police, nothing new came out of the reopened investigation. After that, it was closed again. He still believes that Jack fell from “up above.” He suspects that Jack hit the side of the wall, which could have broken the fall somewhat. He says he has seen very strange things with drunk people, so nothing would be unbelievable to him.
Some critics of the official findings believe Jack’s death was no accident. Reporter Marlene Brennan is one of them. She met Jack’s stepbrother, John Lynch, in 1990. He told her about the case, and she began investigating it. She came to believe that someone involved in the original investigation was protecting someone who was involved in Jack’s death.
Some IUP students agreed to talk to Brennan, but only if she would not reveal their names. They told her that Jack’s fraternity, Sigma Tau Gamma, was not recognized and had some “unsavory” members. They said that Jack’s “big brother” in the fraternity was a major cocaine dealer on campus. Interestingly, when Jack was found, he was wearing his “big brother’s” fraternity jacket.
Brennan theorizes that Jack may have been caught up in a feud between two rival fraternities. Some students reported that there were up to five fights that night. She says it is possible that Jack was involved in one of the fights and was injured. She theorizes that someone (or a group of people) did not know what to do with him, so they kept him somewhere, thinking that he might get better, but he did not. And then they moved him into the stairwell.
Dr. Wecht believes that somebody knows something. He hopes that, perhaps with continuing inquiries by Jack’s family and friends or through the show, somebody will step forward. Had he lived, Jack would have graduated with 2,700 other students in the class of 1989 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Wecht is convinced that among them is at least one person who knows what really happened to Jack. Perhaps the time has finally come to set the record straight.
Suspects: Brennan believes that Jack's death may have been the result of a feud between two fraternities. According to some students, there were at least five fights on campus that night. She believes that he was involved in one and was injured. She also believes that someone (or a group of people) kept him somewhere, hoping that he would get better. However, when he succumbed to his injuries, he was placed at the bottom of the staircase. This theory has not been confirmed.
Brennan interviewed several IUP students and learned that Jack's fraternity, Sigma Tau Gamma, was not officially recognized by the university. It allegedly had "unsavory" members. Jack's fraternity "big brother" was allegedly a major cocaine dealer on campus. It is not known if his fraternity brothers were involved in his death.
In February 1988, Patti’s, a restaurant that Jack had gone to on the night of his disappearance, was cited for serving a visibly intoxicated person and furnishing alcohol to minors. The bartender who served him was also charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor. However, the charges against him were dropped in March when a witness was shown a photo lineup and picked out the wrong person.
In November 1990, John received a threatening call from an unknown man. The caller said that Jack’s family had “hurt” many other families, including the caller’s, by trying to reopen the case.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the January 6, 1995 episode, which also focused on Dr. Wecht.
  • It was also featured on The Trail Went Cold podcast.
  • Marlene Brennan (now Marlene Gentilcore) wrote the book Justice Wanted: The Kid in the University Stairwell about the case.
  • Dr. Wecht wrote the book, Cause of Death, which features a chapter about the case.

Results: Unsolved - After the story was filmed, “Unsolved Mysteries” was contacted by the current District Attorney of Indiana County. He pledged to follow up on any new leads that might be developed through the show. It is not known if any were uncovered.
In 2005, Jack's family was contacted by a retired Indiana Borough police officer. He claimed that Jack had asked him for protection just two weeks prior to his death. It is not known why he did not contact the family or act on the information at the time. Brennan believes that Jack was attacked by someone he knew. Despite the new leads, the case remains a mystery.
Sadly, on December 26, 2021, Elaine passed away at the age of seventy-six. John has also since passed away.