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For several weeks after his daughter's death, McGathey hibernated with his grief. Then he channeled his anger into action.
McGathey called the medical examiner's office when the toxicology report was finished and pressed Young to explain the medical details. Young told him that it's common for drug users to conceal the body of an overdose victim. But for McGathey, there was nothing common about the manner in which his daughter's remains had been treated.
On September 20, frustrated with the glacial movement of the case against Davis, McGathey sent a lengthy e-mail to then-Police Chief Rick Easley and others. "On June 2, 2004, he [Matthew Davis] killed her in his apartment in the River Market area," it read. "We don't know how or why but we're certain he was directly involved with her death, either by directly causing it or at the very minimum, [he] stood by and watched and allowed her to die needlessly to protect himself. A witness has come forward describing a loud domestic disturbance at Matthew Davis' apartment on the night Amber was killed. Boot marks [were found] on an interior door of the apartment.... I believe she was trying to lock herself behind to protect herself from her killer.... When Matthew Davis was arrested on June 6, 2004, at this apartment he had a black eye, further evidence of this struggle in which I believe Amber was trying to escape for her life."
As a member of the Kansas City Crime Commission, McGathey set up a TIPS reward for his own daughter, seeking information that would lead to additional charges against Davis (or any other suspects).
Phone records show that Davis made many phone calls during the days when he knew Amber was dead, and McGathey hopes that someone he called might come forward with information that will help charge Davis with something more than abandoning a body, a class-D felony that carries with it a maximum sentence of four years. Even when stacked with the existing charges of domestic abuse and three new counts of possession of a controlled substance, Davis could plead guilty and serve only four years.
The medical examiner's report notes that, during their ride from Fric & Frac, Davis told his acquaintance that his girlfriend had overdosed on heroin. Young must rely on that report, because heroin has a short "half life" in the body, he says, after which it rapidly metabolizes into morphine. "In a toxicology report, morphine may mean morphine, or it may mean heroin," he says.
In cases of fatal opiate poisoning, Young says, it takes from one to twelve hours for the user to die. During this time, the victim would fall into a coma. But if someone calls paramedics in time, the victim can be quickly diagnosed with an injection of a "narcotic antagonist" and then, perhaps, saved.
McGathey can't believe that Amber would voluntarily try an opiate like heroin or morphine after she'd just left a detox retreat. And he says his daughter was afraid of needles.
But from a recovering addict's perspective, it's not unbelievable at all. Tyler says Amber was curious about heroin because it was a drug she hadn't tried. Mikey admits that he had imagined horrible scenarios and was relieved to find out she'd died of an overdose instead of a fatal beating. "It's better that she did it to herself," he says.
Davis didn't call anyone in time for Amber. Maybe he wasn't even in the room with her when she was dying. Only one person really knows what happened, and Davis has kept his secret in the Jackson County Jail since his arrest on June 6.