United States Marines learn their own unique combatives in the process of becoming Marines, but the atomic wedgie is a move many of us pick up in our youth. It turns out that this, the most fearsome and humiliating of all wedgies, can be just as deadly as any other martial arts move.
On Dec. 21, 2013, Marine Corps veteran Brad Lee Davis learned this disturbing fact the hard way, or at least, his stepfather did. During a fight with 58-year-old Denver Lee St. Clair, Davis picked the older man up by his underwear, and then pulled the undergarment’s elastic band all the way up over St. Clair’s head.
Unfortunately, the move killed St. Clair, which would lead to both a first-degree murder charge for Davis, and a study by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) first-ever study on wedgies – to figure out how the hell that’s even possible.
Davis told police he’d never intended to kill his stepfather. The McLoud, Oklahoma, man was just trying to embarrass him, and an atomic wedgie is just what the doctor ordered when you want to punish and humiliate - if the doctor is Dr. Kevorkian.
Authorities at the time said the two men were spending the night in Denver Lee St. Clair’s trailer while Davis’ mother was recovering from hip surgery at the local hospital. The two men intended to go visit her early the next morning, but they stayed up late talking. Eventually, St. Clair began insulting Davis’ mother.
The Marine Corps veteran told his stepfather that he was a bully, and things turned physical, according to reports. Davis said his stepfather got up and tried to punch him, but the trained Marine easily overcame his stepfather’s attack, leaving the older man on the floor. That’s when Davis decided to add insult to injury.
While St. Clair was still on the ground, Davis pulled up the old man’s underwear, a traditional wedgie. He then went the extra mile, pulling the elastic band of the underwear up over the man’s head. He then took a photo of the incident. Somehow, however, the band made its way around St. Clair’s neck, cutting off his air supply and effectively strangling him.
When police arrived at the scene, St. Clair was dead and Davis was taken into custody. The prosecution believed that things were more than they seemed, believing some of St. Clair’s wounds before the wedgie would have killed him anyway. They charged Davis with first-degree murder, and the media labeled him “the Atomic Wedgie Killer.”
Prosecutors went on to allege that Davis doctored the crime scene before investigators arrived, making it look like the wedgie killed St. Clair, and the two had come to blows during a family argument. Davis wanted to plead not guilty because he was acting in self-defense, but the evidence against him was strong.
In the end, Davis pled guilt for a lesser charge, first-degree manslaughter, which carried a four-year prison sentence, but the judge presiding over his sentence believed he’d acted with much more malice than four years would warrant, and threw the book at him. In 2015, Davis was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
After the case was settled, the National Institutes of Health conducted an entire literature review around all the world’s previous studies of wedgie-related trauma.