Family man

Dallas restaurateur Dale Wamstad portrays himself as humble entrepreneur and devoted father. The family he abandoned in New Orleans has a bone to pick with that.

The following Monday, the day before Mardi Gras, Wamstad flew into a rage. He fired the whole day staff and said the restaurant would no longer be open for lunch.

The next day, Fat Tuesday, Wamstad left on a business trip to Kentucky. Rumore spent the day at the racetrack with her sister-in-law. When she got home at 11 that evening, Wamstad was home. He demanded that his wife get her sister-in-law on the phone and get the staff back into the restaurant. They were reopening for lunch.

That evening and the next morning, Lena and her sister-in-law made phone calls in a futile attempt to staff the restaurant. Lena suggested that they get Roy to work the kitchen. Wamstad didn't protest.

Dale Wamstad and then-wife Lena share a happy moment at a Louisiana racetrack -- three days before she shot him.
Dale Wamstad and then-wife Lena share a happy moment at a Louisiana racetrack -- three days before she shot him.

When Wamstad came in Ash Wednesday morning and Theresa Rumore told him she was having trouble finding staff, he exploded in a rage, cursing and throwing dishes. Then he stormed out.

Lena Rumore arrived minutes later, tossing her purse on the sofa in the restaurant's lounge. She discovered that the only people who showed were Roy, Theresa, and a busboy. Lena decided not to open the restaurant. She scrawled a sign that said "closed for lunch" and posted it by the front door. Then she went into the restroom.

The purse on the sofa held the .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol her husband had given her two years earlier to protect herself when she closed the restaurant at night alone. As Rumore exited the restroom, she heard a loud slam. Wamstad had burst through the front door. He demanded that Theresa open the front door and he pushed a briefcase in her face. Lena told him to stop. "Then he screamed, 'You fucking bitch, what do you think you're doing closing and putting that sign out there?'" Lena says. "And he hurled the briefcase at me, and I mean with force."

She pleaded with Wamstad to let her explain what had happened, but he came at her again. She reached into her purse and pulled out the gun.

"He kinda laughed, 'You fucking bitch. You better use it on me, because if you don't use it, I'm going to kill you with it,'" Rumore recalls. "He started coming close, like he was going to take it from me. So I fired."

Rumore fired four shots before the gun jammed. One bullet missed. Another went into Wamstad's jaw, while a pair of slugs entered his back. He moaned. She screamed and dialed 911.

The police didn't arrest Rumore. Wamstad spent 10 days in intensive care. When he got out in early March 1985, he filed for a legal separation. Two weeks later, a grand jury was impaneled, and after hearing testimony, it declined to indict Rumore. But the following September, Wamstad complained to the district attorney that he was not allowed to tell his full story during his original grand jury appearance. Another grand jury was impaneled and indicted Rumore on a charge of attempted second-degree murder.

At the trial in the summer of 1986, Wamstad claimed that he was ambushed, that Lena and Theresa plotted the whole thing, prepping the scene by locking the restaurant and sending everybody home. "She knew she was going to provoke me, and she shot me like an animal," Wamstad said.

Shortly after the shooting, a letter was distributed to Del Frisco's customers titled "A Final Reading From the Book of Revelations to the Gretnations" by "Jebidiah The Elder." In it, the character Jebidiah, who claims to be an ex-Del Frisco's employee, denies Wamstad ever abused or threatened anyone in the restaurant. The letter then describes a conspiracy by Wamstad's accusers to loot and gain control of the restaurant. It was typed on the back of an April 1985 polygraph test purportedly given to Dale Wamstad, who was asked whether he had threatened or provoked his wife that Ash Wednesday and whether he had ever abused his wife. The document shows that Wamstad denied ever doing so. It suggests his answers were truthful.

On July 16, 1986, Lena Rumore was found innocent. The judge ruled that she had acted in self-defense. The following March, Lena and Dale Wamstad divorced.

In a March 1987 separation judgment, Jefferson Parish District Judge Hubert Vondenstein found Rumore at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. The judge also found that, based on discrepancies in Rumore's testimony as well as "her overall lack of credibility," Rumore assaulted Wamstad without acting in self-defense.

"Even assuming Mr. Wamstad threatened to kill his wife immediately before she fired the shots, and accepting Mr. Wamstad's past history of bullying Mrs. Wamstad, which included mental and physical assaults, this Court cannot find, as a matter of law, that Mrs. Wamstad acted in self-defense," Vondenstein wrote. The judge went on to say that any past acts of cruelty committed by Wamstad were either condoned by Rumore or were not directly responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.

Seven months later, Dale Wamstad filed a $2.6 million damage suit against his ex-wife. Rumore countered with a $5 million suit. Both were eventually dropped.

Wamstad later moved to Dallas and married former bartender Colleen Keating. "It's just great to be alive," says Wamstad in the only comment he made for this article. "I have a wife and three lovely children."

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