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Monday, May 11, 1998
Walker Railey returns to lavish lifestyle
DALLAS - Walker Railey sure doesn't look like someone who declared
less than two months ago he could barely afford $337 a month to
help support the near-comatose woman soon to be his ex-wife.
The former Dallas minister and his new bride share a spacious
apartment in a luxurious high-rise on Los Angeles' west side,
where rents reach $3,000 a month.
Railey and Donna Turner, his second wife, married last month
before 300 people to whom they had sent embossed invitations.
The ceremony took place nine days before the divorce was final
from his first wife, who lies in a vegetative state in a Tyler
nursing home. Railey avoided a possible bigamy charge by asking
the judge to backdate the divorce decree to the day before his
But just weeks before the nuptials, Railey said he could barely
afford the $337 monthly alimony payment.
It may be fitting the 50-year-old Railey chose a Hollywood-area
address: The latest sequel in his story is as intriguing as anything
the studios can dream up. The tale includes his sudden and mysterious
reversal of fortunes, a divorce decree with a movie-deal clause,
broken families, lost jobs and a tragedy-haunted woman who buried
two husbands in their 30s.
And this is 11 years after Railey's life first began to mimic
pulp fiction - when his wife, Margaret "Peggy" Railey,
was choked into a near-comatose state at their Lake Highlands
A civil court held the former senior minister at Dallas' First
United Methodist Church liable for the attack after he failed
to contest a lawsuit filed on her behalf. He was acquitted of
attempted murder in criminal court; some jurors said they thought
he was guilty - but not beyond a reasonable doubt.
Railey and his new wife had little to say recently when reporters
from The Dallas Morning News knocked on the door of their apartment,
which features oaken floors and carved moldings. As piano music
tinkled from inside, the balding, white-haired Railey answered
the door in a T-shirt and honeymoon-quality tan.
"Hi," he said with an icy stare, before slamming
the door and summoning a building manager, who called police.
Neighbors and even some allies of the Raileys said they didn't
know how the newlyweds were making a living these days. Nothing
suggests great wealth in the background of Mrs. Railey, a high
school graduate and executive secretary.
Mrs. Railey's first husband, her high school sweetheart from
St. Louis with whom she had moved to San Diego, died in 1988 at
age 36. He suffered a seizure at Dallas/Fort Worth International
Airport, records show, while on his way to St. Louis for alcohol
Within a few months, the future Mrs. Railey married again,
this time to a member of Walker Railey's new Los Angeles congregation.
Her second husband died in 1995 - also at age 36 - of a bleeding
disorder after surgery. Railey presided at the funeral.
A year later in June 1996, Donna Railey's father died of lung
cancer in St. Louis. Neighbors recalled the powerful funeral conducted
by "Donna's boyfriend," whom they later recognized as
Walker Railey after a television news magazine profiled him.
When Railey married Donna Turner, he did not invite his son,
daughter, mother or brother, or even tell them about it.
One of the children's guardians said they learned of their
father's marriage through news accounts. The children considered
the wedding irrelevant to their lives, she said, since they now
use their guardians' last name and consider them their parents.
The guardian said the children broke off contact with their
father in 1993, although each child did get a Christmas card with
a $5 bill in it last year.
In the past few years, Railey has had brief stints selling
phone books, as a telemarketer and as a security guard. He has
made sporadic appearances at the pulpit, but a friend and Methodist
pastor says they probably won't lead to a comeback.
"That's a dead issue," said the Rev. Kenneth Heaton
of the Norwalk United Methodist Church. "These events will
never get away from him - what happened 11 years ago in Dallas.
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