Dana Sue Gray is a real treat. She preyed on defenseless women, all because she wanted to go shopping. Buying things, she would explain, put her at peace. And her affinity for buying things put three women in the ground.
Dana grew up in sunny SoCal, born to a hairdresser father and an ex-beauty queen mom. She went to school and became a nurse, and the blonde beauty married Tom Gray in 1987. What should have been a perfectly idyllic life soon began to fall apart as the couple’s overabundant shopping habits soon plunged them into debt. Their home in the posh, gated community of Canyon Lake was in jeopardy, their marriage deteriorated and in 1993, Dana lost her hospital job for misappropriating painkillers.
A desperate Dana took out a life insurance policy in her estranged husband’s name, then requested they catch up on Valentine’s Day, 1994. Tom never showed, perhaps wisely. That same day, Dana strangled an elderly woman named Norma Davis, 86, who also lived in Canyon Lake. If you can track this: Norma was Dana’s father’s wife’s former mother-in-law. Norma’s son had married a woman named Jeri Armburst. After Norma’s son died, Jeri would marry Dana’s father, but still cared for Norma. Thus, Jeri was Dana’s stepmother. Norma and Dana were well-acquainted, meaning that Norma probably let Dana in, not assuming Dana would killer her. When Norma’s body was found two days after her death by a neighbor, she had a knife in her neck and a knife in her chest.
A mere two weeks later, Dana stopped by 66-year-old June Roberts’ home under the pretense of borrowing a book. She used June’s telephone cord to strangle her, then stole her credit cards and took herself shopping. On March 10, Dana dropped by an antiques shop in search of a picture frame. There, she found 66-year-old Dorinda Hawkins working the shop alone. Again, she strangled the woman with a phone cord, swiped her credit cards, and went on a shopping spree. Six days later, Dana knocked on the door of 87-year-old Dora Beebe and asked her for directions. When Dora invited her in, Dana killed her by strangling her and bludgeoning her with a steam iron. And just as before, she stole the woman’s credit cards and went shopping.
What Dana had not realized was that she had not successfully murdered Dorinda at the antiques shop. Dorinda survived and was able to provide police with a description of her attacker.
Despite the description, there were no leads in the case for a while. But, investigators were eventually able to trace Roberts’ credit card activity after Roberts’ family received an alert about suspicious activity on her various cards. Obviously, Roberts herself couldn’t have been behind the purchases. Those purchases include a massage at the spa, nice clothing, pricy shoes and other fancy items. Various clerks provided pieces of the credit card user’s identity, including what she looked like. She’d recently dyed her hair, one said. Another said she had been accompanied by a child named Jason. Jeri, Dana’s stepmother, recalled that Dana had recently changed her hair color and was dating a man who had a son named Jason. She pointed the finger at Norma, and Dorinda was able to identify her.
Dana would eventually plead guilty to the murders, and now sits in prison in California, where she will likely remain for the rest of her life. Ever industrious, Dana apparently sold a pair of her signed, worn panties for $250 on a website where you can buy various pieces of “murderabilia.”