When Patterson was 10, his dad got him his first tear-gas grenade. He already had access to his father's arsenal of guns, of course, and made use of Dad's choicest toys, roaming their property with an antique Gatling, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, even an AR-12 with "Dragon's Breath" incendiary rounds that ignited anything in their path, with which Patterson accidentally started a forest fire. But a couple of days after acquiring the grenade, Patterson and Georgia got to bickering. "I'm gonna throw this into your room!" Patterson threatened his sister. Much to the kids' surprise, Walker roused himself to intervene, snatching the grenade from Patterson – and then pulled the pin. The plan was to teach the boy a lesson. But when Walker tried sliding the pin back into place, his glee turned to panic. The pin wouldn't go back in.
"Aaagghh!" Walker hollered, tossing the grenade deeper into the house as tear gas sprayed out. Georgia had already fled; father and son screamed all the way to the front door, Patterson hurdling the stairs and Walker hobbling as fast as he could on account of his bad leg, where he'd once accidentally shot himself. When the house was finally aired out enough that they could re-enter, the children's pet goldfish were belly-up in their bowl.
"Ha-ha-ha! My dad was pretty crazy," recalls Patterson, wiping his eyes from laughter. It's one of Patterson's happiest childhood memories. When he'd overhear his father guffawing while retelling the tear-gas story to friends, he'd thrill to hear his own name in the co-starring role. The best way to capture Walker's attention was to partake in his enthusiasms – in Patterson's case, the joy of blowing things to kingdom come. Georgia found a different angle: She joined Walker in his epic bad-mouthing of their mother, Daisha, whom Walker called "Douchebag"; Walker never tired of hearing Georgia parroting him. But their efforts were of little use: Dad was absorbed in his own world. Sometimes it was a far-off place in his mind, but other times he'd disappear, either into his stinking bedroom; to auctions to bid on collectible guns and other trinkets; and to farther locales, as when one night he announced, "I'm going for Thai food," then called days later – from Thailand.
With their stepmother, the kids tried to be as invisible as possible. She'd been accumulating quite a rap sheet: Adding to her prior record of felony drug possession in Colorado, she was arrested in Utah for possessing meth and heroin, pleaded guilty to felony drug possession, and was sentenced to house arrest. Then, in Wyoming in 2007, police spotted her swerving into oncoming traffic, and pulled her over to find she had heroin, crystal meth, meth pipes – and both children in the car. The kids had been overjoyed at the prospect that she'd go to prison, but upon her guilty plea Daralee received only probation. (Daralee declined to comment for this article.)
"If I wanted kids I would have had my own!" Daralee would shout. She made no effort to hide her loathing of the children. Teddy Thomas wrote in an affidavit that Daralee yelled at Walker, "I don't want anything to do with the kids, and that was our deal when we got married!" The twins never understood why Walker and Daralee got married at all. They never saw them kiss, but often heard their rowdy fights and vows to divorce. And the children claim they were frequent recipients of their stepmother's fury: that she smacked them around, once clubbing Georgia in the stomach with a baseball bat, and pushing Patterson down a flight of stairs. The worst part, they say, was when Daralee skulked around in the night. "Everything happened in the dark," says Georgia. It felt as though they hadn't had a good night's sleep in years.
At school the twins had trouble connecting with classmates, few of whom were allowed over to the Inmans' mansion a second time after gaping at the guns, the explicit art and sometimes an eyeful of Walker, who preferred to be nude. Other kids went to summer camp, but the Inmans went to Abu Dhabi to bid millions at auctions; to Japan, where their father introduced them to friends who were supposedly yakuza; to Fiji, where Dad praised them as they dined on poisonous puffer fish. There were getaways aboard the Devine Decadence, which was docked in New Zealand. One day toward the end of second grade, when their father had yanked them out of school without warning, they told themselves it was for the best.
"Home schooling," however, turned out to be little more than a revolving cast of tutors with no teaching experience. Instead of book learning, Georgia and Patterson honed their survival skills. They learned how to hide when Daralee called their names, not to complain when their bellies grumbled and never to cry: "Buck up and be a man," Walker would chide Patterson. They learned not to snitch to anyone who came around asking about their family life, especially cops. They learned, from their dad's warning, that if they ever heard a shot from the basement gun vault, not to come in; they knew he was talking about suicide, or "kissing the Luger," as he'd call it with a raise of his eyebrows.
Among the kids' first memories, as toddlers, are of being trapped in cribs turned upside down and the terror of being locked in the basement. Recalling those abuses, Georgia lapses into a halting monotone. "They. Stuck my brother and I. In hot boiling water in our bath," she says, forcing out the words. "It felt like our skin was melting away." Her eyes zone out and her entire body convulses in a shudder, which happens occasionally when she discusses her childhood past. "I get a lot of flashbacks," she says faintly.
Meanwhile, the simple pleasures of childhood missed them entirely. They don't recall ever having been tucked into bed. Birthdays went by forgotten by their parents, and one Christmas, Santa filled their stockings with coal. The kids were on high alert for all manner of surprises, as when one time, a skunk wandered into their lavish Great Room – filled with family heirlooms, including a portrait of Doris Duke – and Walker pulled out a machine gun and mowed the animal down. And at least four times, Walker overdosed, sometimes while the kids were home. "The ambulance flew up the hill, the kids were hysterical," tutor Susan Todd wrote in a letter. "Walker was out cold on the floor covered in vomit and no one could wake him." Georgia began using her dad's computer to learn CPR online. "You're gonna die," she warned him.
"I promise you, I will live forever," Walker told her. "I am invincible."
On a series of supervised visits with their mother that year, 2008, it became clear the strain was taking its toll. As psychologists watched from behind a two-way mirror and a video camera filmed the proceedings, the children uttered non sequiturs that made plain their anguish, as when 10-year-old Georgia declared, "My dad never abused us! He would take us to the hospital every time! He's a good dad!" and, apropos of nothing, "Our house is so expensive. Mom [Daralee] kicks my butt, Dad never kicked my butt." Patterson, who spent the visits edging longingly toward his mother and accepting her hugs, looked directly into the camera, then turned away.
"I'm gonna be dead," he murmured. "The truth is eating me."
One of the many troubling aspects of Georgia and Patterson's story is how many people witnessed their torment, and yet no help came. Certainly the kids were on the radar of Wyoming authorities for years. After nanny Phyllis Jasperson called 911 in 2002, the Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies interviewed the kids at the station – "It appears to be a custody battle," one officer noted. "In my opinion the children appear to be in fine physical condition" – before forwarding the matter to Wyoming's Department of Family Services. According to Daisha's notes at the time, DFS took no action for lack of evidence. Still, there were plenty of other chances to step in, because through the years at least three other people claim they reported the Inmans to Wyoming's DFS and still no action was taken.
Investigating the family may have proved challenging. Georgia and Patterson say they did get occasional visits from DFS, which works in conjunction with local law enforcement, but that before the agent's arrival, their father would get a heads-up, hide his drugs and make the home presentable. (A DFS spokesman declined comment, citing privacy issues.)
When Walker's friend Mike Todd once broached the subject of sending Walker to rehab, Walker's lawyer shot down the idea, Todd says, arguing, "If you go to rehab, they will use this against you, and you will lose custody of the children." And yet during a 2007 custody hearing about whether Walker could relocate the family, his lawyer announced to the court, "There's never been any evidence of abuse and neglect. . . . In fact these are some of the most well-cared-for children there is." Eventually, the courts allowed the family to temporarily move across the country, to Greenfield Plantation.
Not long after their arrival in South Carolina in 2008, the state's Department of Social Services would field three separate calls about the Inmans. One was from Georgetown County police, who were summoned to a restaurant when Walker shouted at and hit Georgia so violently that two patrons said they feared for her safety. (Georgia told police she "deserved to be yelled at.") Another report came from a psychologist who evaluated the kids and was tipped off to the parents' drug history. And DSS was also notified by Todd, whom Walker had hired to do restoration work to the decrepit manor. Nothing seems to have resulted from any of the reports. The inaction came as a shock to Todd, who could hardly believe the degree of madness playing out on Greenfield Plantation, a former rice farm where a pet camel named Sinbad roamed and where the family had once owned a lion cub until Walker fed it too many fast-food burgers and it died. "It was like living in an insane asylum," remembers Todd. "Like a nightmare you couldn't wake up from."
Though Daralee was enrolled in a Florida rehab – trying to catch a break on the sentencing from her latest drug bust – she and a band of friends visited Greenfield on weekends, leaving behind glass pipes and little brown packages, says Todd. The kids, then age 11, were left in the care of a pair of married nannies, whom Todd says were engrossed in their own doings, with the husband strolling the grounds swilling beer and shooting alligators, while the wife, stringy and unkempt and with one burst breast implant, would get so furious with the children that she once beat them with a steel ladle. The kids were locked in their rooms at night. By day, they wandered the grounds unwatched, heedless of the snakes and alligators, and once had to be rescued from the fast-moving Black River, which they'd tried to sail in a homemade raft. Even Walker's longtime drug dealer Carl Richardson was shocked at the kids' danger, and by Walker's obliviousness. "Walker was usually so drugged up that he didn't care what the children were doing," he wrote in an affidavit.
Walker spent that summer nodding out all over the house, scarcely able to keep his head up. He'd become sick and monstrous-looking. Pallid but for his purple-veined nose, he tried to add color in his cheeks by scrubbing them with Borax powder. His top teeth had fallen out, and his dental implants wouldn't stay in, leaving him a mouthful of titanium pegs. Walker was beginning to shut out longtime friends, dismissing them as either money-grubbers or unwilling to "ride with the brand" – traitors, in cowboy lingo. His paranoia was so extreme that he lugged a huge case of guns wherever he traveled. He'd come to think himself so capable that when he accidentally cut his thumb to the bone, and the wound became infected, Walker performed surgery on it himself in a Las Vegas hotel room, using a scalpel from a 19th-century surgical kit he'd bought at auction. He had no fear of death, he'd told Todd, because years earlier, while in India, he had learned to stop and start his own heart. "The monks were amazed," Walker slurred.
And yet once in a great while, a shaft of self-awareness penetrated. In a mildewing closet in the plantation's main house one day, Walker came across a shoe box filled with his father's belongings. Walker sat cross-legged on the floor and took out the items one by one: his pilot's license; a newspaper notice of his 1954 death from "consumption" in this very house. There at the bottom of the box were a pair of oval lenses in gold wire frames: Walker Sr.'s spectacles. Walker lifted them out. His father had been a spoiled heir who'd loafed his life away, drinking himself into oblivion, becoming nothing more than a specter in the imagination of his love-starved son – a biography of failure that Walker had duplicated. Walker closed his hand around the spectacles, hung his head and wept.
There were flirtations with sobriety. As Walker attempted to ease off the hard stuff – soothing himself with swigs of pink syrupy methadone – he started cooking family meals again, always the first sign of his resurfacing. New plantation caretaker Ron Altman had initially been appalled at the way Walker brushed off Georgia's hugs and barely glanced at Patterson, but now saw a change. "He was not a warm parent, but I watched this man and his family grow," says Altman. "I tell you what I think, those kids finally got to him."
Walker became playful, amusing the twins by singing loud choruses of "Witch Doctor." "When he was in his right frame of mind he was really funny," Georgia says. The children hung on their father's every word as he told them the adventure tale behind each of his tattoos; laughed about his childhood havoc at Aunt Doris'; and confided for the first time the miseries of boarding school, where Walker said he was bullied by the other boys, and had vented his fury by blowing up a latrine. As Georgia and Patterson drank in their father's attention, they felt as though he was revealing himself for the first time. And in those moments of vulnerability the twins recognized something crucial. "My dad was really sad," says Patterson. "My dad was really lonely. He didn't really have any friends."
By the time the Inmans returned to their Wyoming home in 2009, Walker had slipped back into self-absorption and the kids were stuck with their stepmother, whom they say had become scarier than ever. Much later, in April 2011, a government authority would finally render a decision on Daralee when, according to a document from South Carolina's Department of Social Services, a two-month investigation determined that in retrospect, "minor children Patterson and Georgia Inman were physically abused by their step-mother Daralee Inman." DSS declined to comment beyond confirming the investigation's existence. But the twins claim that back in Wyoming, Daralee's abuse spun out of control.
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