On December 21, 2013, Brad Lee Davis, a Marine Corps veteran, inadvertently discovered a lethal potential in a common prank, leaving his stepfather, Denver Lee St. Clair, dead. During a heated argument with the 58-year-old, Davis hoisted the older man by his underwear, pulling the garment’s elastic band over St. Clair’s head.
Tragically, this act resulted in St. Clair’s death, leading to Davis facing a first-degree murder charge. The bizarre incident even prompted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to initiate its first-ever study on wedgies, aiming to comprehend how such a seemingly harmless act could be fatal.
Davis insisted to the police that he had no intention of killing his stepfather. He was merely trying to humiliate him in McLoud, Oklahoma. He thought an atomic wedgie would serve as a fitting punishment, likening the act to something ordered by Dr. Kevorkian.
During the incident, both men were residing in St. Clair’s trailer, as Davis’ mother was in recovery from hip surgery at a local hospital. The plan had been to visit her the following morning, but instead, the two stayed up late in conversation. As the night wore on, St. Clair began to direct verbal insults at Davis’ mother.
Davis accused his stepfather of bullying, and the situation escalated into physical violence. The trained Marine was able to subdue his stepfather’s aggression, leaving him on the floor. Seizing the opportunity to humiliate the older man, Davis gave him a traditional wedgie, then escalated by pulling the elastic over St. Clair’s head. He even took a photograph of the moment. In a tragic twist, the elastic band ended up around St. Clair’s neck, asphyxiating him.
When the police arrived, they found St. Clair dead and arrested Davis. The prosecution suspected that the wedgie didn’t solely cause the death, and they went on to charge Davis with first-degree murder, leading the media to dub him “the Atomic Wedgie Killer.”
The prosecution also claimed that Davis altered the crime scene to make it look like the wedgie was the sole cause of death. Despite wanting to plead not guilty to self-defense, Davis faced overwhelming evidence against him.
Ultimately, he pled guilty to a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter, expecting a four-year sentence. However, the judge saw greater malice in Davis’s actions and sentenced him to 30 years in prison in 2015.
The case concluded with the National Institutes of Health reviewing previous studies concerning wedgie-related injuries worldwide.