On June 1, 2010 Huntington Beach resident Doyle Davison stood outside an empty, bank-owned Garden Grove home. Its former owner was Barbara Clearwater, ex-wife of a Garden Grove city firefighter. Davison was searching for his 2005 Harley motorcycle, which he says was stolen from him weeks earlier by Clearwater's boyfriend, a multiple-times felon named Ken McCormick.
A real estate broker by trade, Davison began searching for the bike on his own after Huntington Beach police said there was little they could do to find the machine.
In March of that year, Davison advertised the bike on Craigslist for $16,500. He says McCormick responded to the ad and the two struck up a friendship. Davison foolishly allowed McCormick to insure the bike and test drive it multiple times. On May 8th, McCormick and Clearwater rolled up to Davison's home. McCormick said he was ready to buy, but he wanted to take the bike for another test spin with Clearwater. Davison said he would sign the title over once he'd gotten the money. McCormick rode off, never to return.
Standing outside the foreclosed Garden Grove home, where neighbors tell the Weekly Clearwater lived with her daughter and LAPD son-in-law, Davison didn't think he'd be finding the bike anytime soon. He was wrong.
Pulling the Harley's spare key and fob from his pocket, Davison clicked the button. A light blinked in the garage–his Harley's headlamp. Davison, with title in hand, called police. An officer named Gary Coulter responded and called McCormick's cell phone. McCormick and Clearwater agreed to come to the foreclosed home, where police asked the couple to open the garage door.
Davison expected his bike to be returned on the spot, but after Officer Coulter interviewed McCormick and Clearwater, Davison says he was ordered to leave the property. When he protested, Davison says Officer Coulter threatened to arrest him.
“He followed me in his police car to make sure I left,” says Davison adding that he hasn't seen McCormick or the Harley since.
Three years later, Davison's just as angry at Garden Grove police as he is at McCormick. A Garden Grove detective didn't return a call seeking comment, but Huntington Beach Police Spokesman Lt. Mitch O'Brien tells the Weekly the case was complicated by the fact that Davison and McCormick had an established relationship. When interviewed by police, McCormick showed proof of insurance and told officers he loaned Davison $4,000 toward the cost of the bike (Davison denies receiving such a loan).
“When you got a guy saying 'I bought this motorcycle, and here's all the emails,' …that's a contract,” says Lt. O'Brien. “Whether he's lying or not, we do our best to figure out if there's an agreement.”
Had police accessed Orange County Family Court records, they might have thought twice about McCormick's story.
In 2005, the county slapped him with 17 counts of contempt for failure to pay child support. In September of 2010, McCormick asked the court to modify his payment plan saying he'd lost all income and his disability had run out.
Records show McCormick also had multiple felony convictions throughout the 1990s including receiving stolen property, unlawfully taking a vehicle and perjury.
Following the incident with Garden Grove police, Davison returned to Huntington Beach where detectives eventually charged McCormick with unlawful taking of a vehicle (the District Attorney declined to pursue the case.)
“I'd be surprised if McCormick was convicted of anything,” says Lt. O'Brien. “It's no different than a bank saying you owe them money. We don't arrest people for that. It [requires] a civil remedy.”
Davison sees it differently. He suspects Garden Grove cops gave McCormick favorable treatment because of his girlfriend's ties to the city and law enforcement.
“[The police are] crooks. How can they give my property away like that?” he asks.
Multiple attempts to reach Clearwater were unsuccessful. The Weekly did manage to contact Ken McCormick, but he hung up at the first mention of the word “Harley.”