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Saturday, April 25, 1998

Walker Railey remarries in California

DALLAS (AP) -- Shortly after finalizing his divorce from the woman he was accused of choking nearly to death, an ex-minister who was acquitted in the attack has remarried.

Walker Railey, whose former wife Peggy has remained in constant care since the 1987 attack, remarried in Los Angeles, according to The Dallas Morning News' Friday editions.

The First United Methodist Church of Dallas' former senior minister on Saturday married a woman identified by a church official as Donna Berry.

Afterward, the couple declined to comment.

"You're wasting your time calling," Railey, 50, told the newspaper by telephone from his Los Angeles home. "I'm not going to give you a statement."

The wedding came less than two weeks after he signed final papers ending his marriage to Margaret "Peggy" Railey, who was attacked in the garage of the couple's east Dallas residence on April 21, 1987.

After the choking, Railey attempted suicide, admitted an affair with a church member and resigned his ministerial credentials.

He was acquitted in 1993 at San Antonio of attempted murder, but his wife's family won an $18 million civil judgment in 1988, holding Railey responsible for the attack.

That judgment was dismissed as part of the recent divorce settlement, which requires Railey to pay $337 a month in alimony. Ted Nicolai, Peggy Railey's brother and legal guardian, said the first payment arrived Wednesday.

"He better keep those checks coming if he doesn't want to see my smiling face on his doorstep," said Nicolai, 43.

"I can't believe anyone would marry him," Nicolai said of the wedding. "But nothing Walker Railey does surprises me."

His ex-wife never recovered from a savage attack at her Lake Highlands home and remains grotesquely disfigured in what doctors call a vegetative state.

She requires 24-hour care in a Tyler nursing home.

She wears diapers and is fed through tubes. She has no muscle control, intermittently wakes and sleeps, makes noises and cries but "can't tell somebody when she hurts," a relative said.

A woman answering Railey's home phone in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon said she was Mrs. Railey, but would not give her first name or any details of the wedding.

"We knew this call was coming, we just didn't know when," she said. "We'll have to defer any questions to our attorney," Howard Pilch of Los Angeles. Pilch did not return messages left on his voice mail Thursday.

The attack on his wife took place at a time that Railey was a rising star in his congregation's downtown Dallas church.

Railey told police he discovered his wife about 12:40 a.m. when he returned from an evening of research at Southern Methodist University.

Rumors soon began to circulate that investigators had "indisputable evidence" that Railey lied about his activities that night.

Mobile phone records and messages he left on his home answering machine suggested that Railey was creating a phony alibi.

Six years would pass before he admitted from the witness stand in a San Antonio courtroom that was exactly what he had done. But he swore he was not covering up attempted murder. He said he was hiding his ongoing affair with psychologist Lucy Papillon.

Ms. Papillon was the daughter of a Methodist bishop who, like Railey, once served as senior minister at First Methodist.

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