Walker's quest for love proved more elusive than his quest for attention. In 1983, when he met Daisha Aunday, a high-strung raven-haired aspiring model living in Hawaii, he'd already burned through two marriages. He soon proposed, and they set off on his 80-foot yacht, Devine Decadence, for what Walker declared would be a 10-year sail around the world. It started out promisingly, the two of them bronzing on the deck, Walker expertly cooking their meals in the galley with a giant spliff hanging from his lips. They sailed through the Caribbean, docking stateside every so often to stay with Aunt Doris Duke in one of her various homes.
"I was in a whirlwind," recalls Daisha fondly. "I was young, and this guy was wonderful." But the happy couple's lifestyle soon spiraled out of control as Walker graduated from pot and pills to morphine – Daisha says she found him passed out in a bathtub with a needle in his arm – and from snorting cocaine to freebasing. The idyll came to an end in Panama, after two years together, when Daisha declined an orgy, but Walker participated; in the ensuing spat, Walker simply boarded the yacht and sailed off, leaving Daisha behind. Months later, he called her to announce his wedding to another woman.
Ten years passed before Walker contacted Daisha again, contrite. They rendezvoused in 1995 in New Orleans, where 43-year-old Walker, single again, looked worn but still dashing in the candlelight of a French Quarter restaurant. He told Daisha he'd made the mistake of his life leaving her and wanted to try again. They also spoke of how his Aunt Doris had died two years earlier, a loss that pained him in more ways than he could say. Doris' life of glamour had been deeply lonely, with few lasting friendships, two failed marriages and no children – her only baby, born premature, had died less than 24 hours after birth – and in her old age she'd turned eccentric, briefly adopting a 35-year-old Hare Krishna devotee before closing down her social circle altogether. Surprising everyone, Doris had replaced Walker as an executor of her will and instead named her butler as sole executor of her $1.2 billion estate, nearly all of which she left to charity. Although Doris had provided a $7 million trust for Walker, he felt sorely betrayed by his beloved aunt. Walker said nothing to Daisha of his heartache, but assured her that he remained well provided for; court records would later reveal that his grandmother Nanaline Duke's trust alone paid him as much as $90,000 each month. As for the hard drugs, Walker claimed to be clean, though he warned with a grin that he'd always be a "chipper" – a dabbler.
At 35, Daisha was at the end of her own string of failed relationships, and had long since given up on her modeling dreams; Walker told friends she was "practically homeless" and working as a topless dancer (which Daisha denies). She could hardly believe she was getting a second chance at comfort, happiness, maybe even love. At their wedding four months later at Greenfield Plantation, Walker's inherited 300-acre property in Georgetown, South Carolina, Daisha wore the bridal gown she'd been saving for a decade, and Walker wore a white tux with a red bow tie and a holstered ivory-handled pistol. After the exchange of vows, boxes of white doves were opened, but nothing emerged. As Walker kissed the bride, a caretaker scooped out a handful of dead and dying birds and tossed them skyward, where they fell in a pile on the grass.
Walker wanted children right away, and hustled Daisha into in-vitro fertilization. Daisha found his readiness for fatherhood a touching sign that he was ready to assume the responsibilities of being an adult. Still, Walker confided an additional motive to a friend. His grandmother's will had stipulated that if Walker left no heirs, upon his death his trust would be funneled into the Duke Endowment, a $2.8 billion foundation established by Buck Duke that nourishes, among other institutions, Duke University. The idea repulsed Walker: The very name that had given him such unearned bounty also stood for everything he felt he'd been deprived. "He despised Duke!" says longtime friend Mike Todd. "Duke University, Duke Foundation – everything Duke, he hated."
The twins were born two months early, a boy and a girl, purple and shriveled at three and a half pounds each. "I can't believe I created something so beautiful," Walker marveled when he and Daisha brought the babies home to Greenfield Plantation after more than two months in the NICU. He'd never thought himself capable of doing much in life, other than being a professional hedonist, but if he accomplished nothing else at least he'd done this – miraculously created these two exquisite beings. He named the children Georgia and Walker Patterson Inman III, after his absent parents. He vowed to become the father he himself never had.
A year and a half later, Walker and Daisha's marriage was broken beyond repair. Daisha says he turned to drugs and beat her, and Walker told friends that her partying was interfering with her parenting (which she denies). Either way, Daisha had taken the kids to her parents in Oregon, an arrangement intolerable to Walker. He concocted what seemed to him a reasonable solution. Walker called Daisha asking to reconcile, inviting her to join him in the Cayman Islands. Once there, according to Daisha, Walker offered her a night off by taking the 17-month-old twins and their nanny out to dinner – then hustled them all aboard a waiting private plane and took off for the States, leaving Daisha behind.
In the wake of what she refers to as "the kidnapping," Daisha says she called the FBI in the hopes of being reunited with her children, but no charges were filed. Even after that outrageous escapade, when the divorce finally came through in 2000, the children's court-appointed legal representative judged Walker the more stable parent, despite "his multiple marriages; his drug, alcohol and cigarette use; limited parenting experience; and his unusual, perhaps dysfunctional, upbringing." The judge expressed concern over Daisha, whom a psychologist had assessed as suffering from paranoid symptoms, anxiety, PTSD and "borderline intelligence." It had also been determined that Daisha was incapable of handling her own case. The court assigned her a Guardian ad Litem to aid her legal decision-making, a move normally reserved for minors and disabled adults (years later, Daisha's lawyer would discredit the psych report in court). Walker was granted primary custody of the twins. He moved the family to Wyoming, where taxes were low and the wide-open spaces appealed to him – he'd always considered himself a cowboy at heart.
In the spring of 2002, word got out in the remote Afton, Wyoming, area that the new family in town was hiring a nanny for their four-year-old twins. Ninety minutes from the Grand Tetons, nestled between two mountain ranges and with a population of just 1,900 souls, Afton was a hub of the Star Valley, though its modest downtown, notable for its archway made of elk antlers, boasted little more than a post office, a bar and a car dealership. The Inmans had moved to nearby Grover, an enclave of 147 people, and the baby-sitting job they offered was a bonanza, with a salary of $30,000 – a third more than the per capita income – plus health insurance, free lodging and international travel. Over the next few years, the Inmans would come to employ dozens of caregivers, some of whom would last just a few days. One after another, they would arrive at the massive property, marveling at the sheer size of the house framed out on the hilltop, as big as a ski lodge, ringed by smaller cottages. There was a tractor-trailer on the property, and according to former employee Teddy Thomas' affidavit, it was filled with explosives, artillery and "enough ammunition to start a small war."
The tableau would become only more alarming as a barefoot Walker Inman stomped into view, his gray hair sticking out in all directions, his shirtless back covered in an enormous tattoo of a nude woman in sexual congress with an octopus – an image inspired by Walker's admiration of "tentacle erotica." If his tattoo caused others discomfort, Walker showed no sign of caring, and that lack of courtesy – indeed, that aggressiveness – set the tone of the volatile household. "There was a lot of anger & threatening going on," wrote former nanny Lizzie Hull in a blind letter later on, at Daisha's request. "It was chilling. I felt I was watching a gangster movie." Among Hull's first tasks was to help Walker hang a machine gun on a wall of the cottage where the family was staying, where guns, knives and swords lay everywhere. Every ashtray in the house overflowed, every surface was mottled with cigarette burns, and the air hung with smoke. Out of the haze scuttled Walker's new wife, Daralee Inman, nee Steinhausen, whom he'd said he'd picked up hitchhiking: a tall, rough-mannered farm girl with straw-blond hair from Wheatland, Wyoming, who scratched and picked at her skin, and who was rarely seen by any employee until well into the afternoon. Many days, Daralee would hide out in the couple's bedroom, a room the staff dreaded having to clean for its acrid smell and the objects they'd find: white substances, needles and a blackened, bent-back spoon. "When they came out there would be a strange smell," wrote Thomas, adding that he saw drug paraphernalia in the house "too many times to be specific about dates." Once, former nanny Rebecca Hatton walked in and discovered the couple huddled on the bed, holding a flame underneath a broken light bulb.
But the new nannies' most shocking encounter was meeting the twins, as when Hull was ushered to the children's door and the caretaker slid back the deadbolt; staring silently out of that squalid prison cell stood the two toddlers. "They were very skinny and had dark circles under their eyes," noted Hull. Several witnesses attest that the kids were locked in their room each night, and, according to Hatton, there was food strewn across the floor and a foul smell from where the kids had been relieving themselves in a corner.
The children were accustomed to this sort of living – it was all they knew. They'd spent the past three years in Jackson Hole, playground to the rich, living in a $6,000-a-month rental home that resembled a glorified drug den. A later lawsuit described $30,000 in damages including walls pocked with holes; leather furniture, artwork and carpeting destroyed; and even after two defoggings, a smoke odor so sickening that all mattresses needed replacing. Here, during the kids' tenderest years, terrible things had taken place. Walker had recently been overheard in the Afton pharmacy explaining why he needed new nannies: He'd fired the old ones after discovering them hurting the twins. "[He] also stated he had surveillance video of the abuse," one witness wrote in an affidavit. But the twins' maltreatment had also apparently come at the hands of their father. When plantation caretaker Vick "Butch" Deer flew in from South Carolina, he'd been stunned at where he found the preschoolers. "Walker made them stay down in the basement all the time," wrote Deer in an affidavit. "The basement was covered in feces and it was smeared all over and it smelled terrible. It was so bad that I wouldn't leave a dog in that condition."
The new Afton nannies were advised that their little charges were strange due to past abuses – that previous nannies had taped their mouths shut, among other evils – and possibly mentally retarded. Instead, the women were surprised to find the kids bright and friendly. Hull remembers them clambering into her lap for a story, and, brimming with mischief, constantly sprinting off into trouble, which she recognized as a ploy for attention. But there was something off about the children. They didn't know how to hold a pencil or draw with a crayon and were afflicted with serious speech delays. The few toys on the property were locked away.
All the while, the children had limited exposure to their mother, because Walker was engaged in a bitter fight to keep Daisha away from the kids – a fight that only escalated after Daisha made the unfortunate decision in 2003 to briefly marry a convicted sex offender, Randy Williams. Despite his own flaws as a parent, Walker became obsessed with protecting his children from Daisha and her new husband.
As the custody battle wore on, Daisha was often forced to represent herself for lack of funds, while Walker made use of his fortune to hire as much legal firepower as he needed. Thanks to his efforts, Daisha's role in her kids' lives would continue to shrink until she would virtually disappear; between 2003 and 2008, Georgia and Patterson would hardly see their mother at all. During those years, Walker would convince the twins that their mother was the enemy. He concocted stories that she was a hopeless addict who'd given them fetal alcohol syndrome, which explained why they were "retarded." "They kept telling us that she didn't want to see us," says Georgia. "That she was a drugged-out mess and drunk, that she fed us alcohol, put it in our sippy cups." The twins learned to fear and resent Daisha. One courtordered therapist who tried to intervene reported that Walker threatened to sue him.
Not that the kids seemed especially attached to their father and stepmother, either, and vice versa. Days into her employment, Hatton was asked to take the twins home with her for a week or more, and not only did the children go uncomplainingly, but neither parent ever called to check on them. In 2002, when nanny Phyllis Jasperson brought the kids to one of their infrequent visitations with Daisha, Jasperson observed the kids' excitement and unusual candor as they played with the cats and the Easy-Bake Oven. "They ran from one thing to another like kids do on Christmas," Jasperson later wrote in a letter at Daisha's request. "All the time telling their mother how daddy and the nannys hit them and made them bleed, they begged their mother not to let the mean people hurt them any more."
Jasperson and Daisha called 911. When the next day Jasperson arrived at Walker's home for work she found the door locked; her employment was abruptly over after two weeks. None of the nannies were allowed to say goodbye to the children upon their sudden firings. Not Lizzie Hull, who burst into overwhelmed tears on her third day, and arrived the following morning to find she'd already been replaced. Not Rebecca Hatton, who after expressing concern about Walker's smoking around the children, returned to the estate from baby-sitting the twins for two weeks and found Walker firing guns, and drunkenly shouting, "Get your ass off my property and mind your fucking business if you know what's good for you!" Though the women were concerned about the kids, they were relieved at their dismissals. "Those people scare me," wrote Hull of her three whole days with the Inmans. "I never want to see any of them again."
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