The Devil and Doyle Davidson

Did a preacher's obsessions push Dena Schlosser over the edge?

John and Dena had met at Marist College in New York where, for the first time in her life, Dena had a group of friends, a "rat pack" of like misfits that included John. Her childhood had been unhappy. Her mother Connie first divorced when Dena was 5. Family dysfunction was accompanied by illness, and at age 8, Dena developed hydrocephalus, sometimes called "water on the brain," and suffered through eight surgeries to implant shunts in her brain, heart and abdomen before she was 13. Classmates made fun of her shaved head. The trauma welded Dena to her mother, a dynamic businesswoman who fiercely loved her daughter.

"If an injustice of any magnitude was visited on Dena, you had to deal with Connie," says Macauley, Connie's third husband. He believes his wife's protectiveness in some ways kept Dena from becoming independent.

After Dena and John got married, she finished her degree in psychology. The Macauleys thought John was working on a degree in computer science. When he announced his graduation, John's parents flew in for the big party. The Macauleys later found out it was a sham.

David Haynes, one of Dena Schlosser's attorneys, says, 
"When Dena said something that was against the 
teaching of the church, John would bring her to 
Davidson."
Steve Satterwhite
David Haynes, one of Dena Schlosser's attorneys, says, "When Dena said something that was against the teaching of the church, John would bring her to Davidson."

"We paid his tuition, but he never attended class and was dismissed for academic reasons," Macauley says. "For John, appearances are more important than substance." Socially awkward, extremely private, John donned an attitude of "I'm techy, I'm superior." (John Schlosser declined an interview through his attorney.)

In 2000, the couple and their two daughters moved to Fort Worth for John's job. Three months later, John found another position--making $130,000 a year, he told the Macauleys. That lasted 90 days. While he looked for a position, John did computer consulting out of the house.

Macauley had to admit that John and Dena seemed well-matched. Two geeky kids who'd have geeky babies. Their relationship seemed affectionate, even romantic in some ways. But Dena transferred her dependence on her mother to her husband, unable to discipline her own children or make a decision without turning to John. Dena still talked to her mother a dozen times every day but as the marriage progressed, she revealed less and less. John didn't want her to.

Dena wasn't working. Like John, it was difficult for her to keep a job. An extreme idealist, Dena worked for Visa and quit because customers were rude. She walked out on a job at Ameritrade because clients lied. "When she worked in the nursing home industry, she took umbrage at the way some patients were treated," Macauley says. "She would be deeply surprised and offended and quit."

Soon after the move to Fort Worth, Dena learned that her mother had Parkinson's disease. It shocked Dena to her core. Not long after Macauley saw the crystals, Dena started talking about going to a church in Plano, 60 miles away. A neighbor had told her about Water of Life. After attending for a while, the preacher, Doyle Davidson, was all Dena could talk about. She sent her parents audio and videotapes, urging them to watch. John was as enamored with the church as she was.

The Macauleys were alarmed. Mick, a psychologist, watched for hours trying to figure out what they saw in Davidson. Though Davidson used much of the jargon of charismatic Christianity, he also laced his teaching with tirades at people in the audience. On one tape, Davidson hears a baby crying and barks, "Shut that brat up." He said outrageous things, once stopping in the middle of a sermon to complain that he didn't have their attention. "I guess if I took my gun and shot every third person in this front row I bet I'd get your attention."

Macauley realized that what drew Dena was Davidson's certainty, his grip on truth with a capital T. "With Doyle, there's no ambiguity. He's very concrete. He said to her [Dena], 'I don't interpret the Bible, it's the absolute truth.'"

A few years earlier, the truth according to Davidson had gotten him in hot water with the Daystar network for speaking negatively about other ministers, including Billy Graham. In May 1999, Davidson opined on camera that if Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall, two Christian girls gunned down in the Columbine massacre, had had more faith, they wouldn't have been killed.

Even though Davidson did something almost unheard of--paying for airtime in advance--Daystar pulled the plug on him. Within weeks Water of Life was back on the air. He now broadcasts every night at 9 p.m. on KLDT-Channel 55, a Lewisville-based independent that mostly runs infomercials. Water of Life also appears once a week on a CBS affiliate in Indiana and an ABC affiliate in Joplin, Missouri; Monday through Friday at 6 a.m. on a Fox affiliate in Springfield, Missouri; and twice each Monday through Friday on UPN in Tulsa. People around the world also can plug into the programs on the Internet at www.doyledavidson.com, where he's posted his numerous "Messages to Lisa."


Subject: continue my emails to you

Sent: 06/23/2005

Dear Lisa,

...I need to remind us, and those that will read this, that our walk together was mostly praying together. We would pray for hours at a time, fervently. It was such joy to pray with you, and there was liberty to touch you if I desired and you demonstrated that same liberty...I love you dear, Doyle.

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