Real Name: Astarte Davis-Rice
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Fraud, Questioning in Murder
Missing Since: January 1989
Details: In 1970, thirty-nine-year-old Astarte Davis (born Estebel White) married Jim Rice, a wealthy American businessman. She had three grown sons from a previous marriage. In 1979, the couple moved to Kona, Hawaii, and started a charter fishing business. Two years later, her son Noble was cleaning their yacht, the Blue Hawaii, when it was rocked by an explosion. Noble was seriously injured, but he recovered. Coincidentally (or not), Astarte just happened to be on the dock nearby when it happened. Investigators became suspicious when they found that Astarte had a large insurance policy on the yacht. Also, they found it odd that Noble was out cleaning the boat at 2 am. Even more strangely, he was using gasoline to clean it.
Astarte and Noble Davis were charged with the arson of the yacht. However, they had left the area prior to being charged. Astarte and Jim separated and she returned to California; she and Noble were never extradited back to Hawaii. In April 1981, she filed for bankruptcy. In 1982, she was sent to prison for altering documents and spent a year in prison. After her release in 1983, she and Jim soon reconciled and they moved to St. Croix in 1984. They built their dream house on a isolated bluff.
In July 1986, Jim had a surgery scheduled for him in the United States, but Astarte would not go with him. On July 20, he called his daughter Kathleen and told her that he would be flying to her home in California in a week so he could prepare for the surgery. He was scheduled to arrive at Kathleen's home on July 29, but he failed to show up. For two weeks, she called his home but was unable to get a hold of him. Eventually, Astarte answered the phone; she told Kathleen that Jim had ran off with an Australian woman. Later, she claimed that he had gone to Miami.
Two months later, Kathleen hired a private investigator to look into her father's disappearance. He found a customs declaration dated July 28, 1986. On the form, Jim's signature appeared to be forged. He notified the FBI about his find. Investigators discovered that a person using Jim's name had bought a ticket from St. Croix to Miami. Witnesses stated that the people who had flown on the flight were Astarte, her son Noble, and Noble's girlfriend.
The private investigator also discovered that a week prior to Jim's scheduled flight to San Francisco, Astarte had filed documents which gave her complete control of his entire estate. It was determined that Astarte had done a "cut and paste" job with one of the documents, Jim's power of attorney document, and placed her name over his daughter Kathleen's name. The private investigator believes that he disappeared sometime between July 20 when he spoke to Kathleen on the phone and July 21 when Astarte met with the notary.
The private investigator later discovered that several of Jim's items, including his truck, were sold by Astarte at a garage sale. Four months later, Kathleen received a typewritten letter, supposedly from Jim, sent from Australia. Once again, his signature appeared to be forged. Another discrepancy was the typing mistake "Iam" instead of "I am" which was a common mistake that Astarte made. This mistake was found in several places in the letter.
Evidence, rumor and mounting circumstances suggested beyond doubt that he had been murdered by Astarte. In January 1989, Astarte was charged with bank and mail fraud, but was released on bail and vanished.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 3, 1991 episode. Subsequent airing in September 2002 after a prison escape.
This case has been featured on other series, including America's Most Wanted, Snapped and Forensic Files.
Results: Captured. Astarte Davis-Rice was arrested in Santa Barbara, California in 1991. She was consequently convicted of bank and passport fraud, along with other crimes related to her husband's murder. However, she has never actually been charged with Jim's murder because his body had never been found.
In August 1998, she escaped from a minimum-security prison in Dublin, California, while serving a fifteen-year sentence. After her story was re-aired in September 2002, a viewer recognized her in Spokane, Washington. She was arrested there in October 2002 and subsequently convicted of escape and remanded to a higher security prison. She has since been released.
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- United States v. Astarte Davis-rice – CourtListener.com