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By: MARK EVANGELISTA, Citizen Staff
September 17, 2003
Pat Walton’s son was dead before she was able to give him his birthday present. Kemah resident George Walton could have easily afforded the guitar but that wasn’t his style, said Walton. The 41 year-old chiropractor bartered with one of his patients for music instruction and was learning on a borrowed guitar. “He had talked about taking guitar lessons,” the 71 year-old real estate agent said. “So I bought him a guitar, wrapped it up and had it in my car.”
Less than 12 hours later, Michael Walton was shot to death in his Kemah Oaks home and his wife Audrey hospitalized after a bullet grazed her head. Last week, a Galveston County grand jury returned an indictment against Audrey Phillips-Walton for the July 28, 2002 murder of her husband. Phillips-Walton, a citizen of England, is currently living in a town outside London and will be arrested and extradited to face charges, said Kemah Detective Sgt. Greg Rickard.
Once a warrant is issued for her arrest, he said, the FBI will forward information to Interpol, which will attempt to bring her to justice.
Rickard’s biggest concern is that she’ll flee again. In his last conversation with the registered nurse, Rickard said Phillips-Walton said she was going to San Antonio, where her father Maurice Phillips lives. Instead, she hopped a plane to the United Kingdom, he said.
“She’s ran once. Who knows if she’ll run again,” Rickard said. A phone message left at her father’s house in San Antonio on Monday was not returned as of press time. Plans to celebrate George Walton’s birthday were delayed because of schedule conflicts, busy lifestyles and his demanding work at Mainland Pain Consultants, now called Mainland Rehab. On Sunday afternoon, George Walton was out of breath after doing yardwork in the Texas heat.
His mother was trying to align their schedules so she could deliver his gift. “He was so excited about the plans for the clinic,” she said. “Things were finally going his way.” George Walton’s way was not the path of least resistance. He worked his way through school at Cleveland (Ohio) Chiropractic as a construction worker, house painter, bartender, whatever it took, said his sister, Candy Rodriguez. “He would go to school and when he’d run out of money, he’d go back to work,” she said. “After he’d made enough to afford school, he’d go back.” Walton also married later in life, with a ready-made family.
Phillips-Walton had two boys from a previous marriage. In 2000, a justice of the peace made the union official in the backyard of a friend’s house overlooking a lake. Walton said she and the rest of her family had lingering doubts about the union. But they couldn’t question the smile on his face when he spoke of her and the two boys. “We had some reservations, taking on kids. He was looking for a family,” said Walton. “But she made him happy. He had faith and trust in her.” On the night of July 27, the Waltons “stayed home and partied,” said Rickard. The children were spending the weekend with their father, leaving the two of them alone on Saturday night. The boys returned home on Sunday afternoon only to find their stepfather dead and their mother sitting down in another bathroom with her hair matted with partially dried blood, said Kemah police. A .380-caliber handgun was found, said police, as well as prescriptions for painkillers and antidepressants.
Walton tried to kill her and then committed suicide, Phillips-Walton told police and then later said an intruder was to blame. Toxicology and blood alcohol results from Memorial Hermann Hospital, where Phillips-Walton was treated, were requested by Kemah police but never received. “Both staff and patients were devastated” by the murder, said Duane Johnson, spokesman for Mainland Rehab in Dickinson, where George Walton was an associate partner and his wife was a registered nurse. “Our experience is only on a professional level and they were both really good employees,” said Johnson. He said that no one has had contact with Phillips-Walton since the tragedy. She never returned to work. Two days after the grisly discovery, the Galveston County Medical Examiner ruled that his death was not a suicide, meaning he did not die by his own hands.
A backlog of evidence at Department of Public Safety delayed the processing of forsensic evidence. Kemah Police Chief Roy Owen said one slug from the gun was perfectly preserved. Owen said that Phillips-Walton placed the gun right in the center of her husband’s forehead and fired as he was walking into the bathroom. Explaining her wound, he said that “she was standing over the sink with the gun to her head and she had second thoughts at the last moment and moved the gun.” Some good evidence in the form of a slug was recovered from the bathtub, which had a little bit of water in it, said Owen. “We don’t know if the water was run before or after,” said Owen.
Before, his mother’s life was complete. Now, her life is upside down. “Every day I think of him,” Pat Walton said. “There’s not a day that I don’t think of him. He was my youngest and he talked to me every day.” Candy Rodriguez does not believe in vengeance. George Walton’s sister wants everyone to remember her brother as the “bright, funny and caring” person he was. She merely wants justice for her brother. “We want her to go to jail for the rest of her life,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t want her executed. That would be too easy.” If and when the case comes to trial at the Galveston County Courthouse, two observers guarantee their attendance. “Mom and I will be there everyday,” said Rodriguez. “We’ll be there when they take her off the plane in handcuffs.”