The Devil and Doyle Davidson

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

His sister Glenda Schoen lives on a dairy farm east of Sarcoxie. A legal secretary, Schoen refuses to talk about her brother. "Our parents were wonderful Christian people," Schoen says, "and if anyone tells you otherwise, they're wrong."

Patti's relatives felt that Davidson isolated his wife from her family and friends. Though a handful of family members were once involved with Water of Life, most have left. None would talk to the Observer.

"They're scared to death of him," one relative says. "Something changed him."

David Hollenbach

Doyle Davidson has led Plano's Water of Life Church for 25 years.
Doyle Davidson has led Plano's Water of Life Church for 25 years.

Davidson returned to North Texas in 1973, much to the anger of Butler, who had paid a lot of money for Davidson's share of the animal hospital in McKinney. Davidson casts it as a divine move. "It was all God to get Doyle to Texas," he says.

Butler thought otherwise. "He wanted to move right back in where he was," says the vet, now practicing in Louisiana. Butler filed an injunction against Davidson and got some money back. Davidson had to live and practice in Argyle until 1976. He returned to McKinney in 1977.

Butler describes Davidson as egotistical, controlling and a skirt-chaser. "He was interested in female anatomy...I don't think God told him he was married to any of them. I got messed up myself. I was convinced I was God for a while. But he still thinks he's God."

Mary Jane Hinkle was married to Butler back then. Though Davidson presented himself as highly successful, the couple lived modestly. Hinkle describes Patti as browbeaten. "Patti was a super-nice, well-mannered person," she says. "But he [Doyle] was so mean. He would make her feel insignificant. She didn't have any value to him."

By the late '70s, Davidson was teaching a class at First United Methodist Church in McKinney, where Terry Mai led the choir. Remembering the turmoil Davidson caused, one longtime member says, "He left and tried to move half the membership with him."

Some became core members of Water of Life--where Davidson began services in 1981. Just three years later, he was preaching live on TV.

Within a few months, Davidson writes, "my wife Patti yielded to what I believe to be the Jezebel ruler of the city of Plano." In an interview with the Observer, Davidson described in detail how "God took her out of my life."

One day in church, Davidson says, Patti laid hands on a woman, and all of sudden Patti and the woman began laughing hysterically. Strange spiritual manifestations quickly spread through the congregation: Spirits threw people to the floor; people were screaming. Much of this was broadcast on live television. Patti, Davidson says, erred by laying hands on the woman. "She yielded her members to a false Christ," he says. "That day a division came between us--like Patti was in another world. She said, 'I have nothing in common with you. I'm not a part of your life. All I ask, just love me--don't leave me.'"

The evil spirit to which Patti yielded infected everyone in the congregation, prompting Davidson to announce he'd lost control. Jezebel had taken over, and he was forced to cast the hussy out, over and over. It was great TV and money rolled in, enough that the debt on the building was retired in 1985.

In 1984, Davidson says, he no longer considered Patti his wife, though he didn't divorce her and she continued to attend services at Water of Life. Davidson says he tenderly took care of her until her death in 2003. Ultimately, he says, it was the "plagues" of the Jezebel spirit that killed her. She broke out in boils, then suffered a heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cataracts. To get rid of the evil spirit Patti had unleashed in the church, Davidson says, he "prayed day and night and fasted...there was a war going on between Satan's kingdom and God's kingdom." He finally regained control--and by this time, God had "given" him another wife to replace Patti.

On August 27, 1987--Davidson is precise with dates--Lisa Staton approached him in the fellowship hall and made a statement that rocked his world. This is how Davidson remembers it: Staton was talking to him privately about problems with a home Bible study she was involved in, then abruptly changed the subject. "I've never made love to anybody but my husband, but I believe I could [to] you. I don't know if it's God, or my wicked heart."

Davidson didn't know either. But God did.

A day later, Davidson was praying in the wee hours when God revealed his will to him through the words of Psalm 37: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

"With those words," Davidson says, "he gave me Lisa as my wife."

Left in the dust, apparently, was Lisa's husband, Harold "JR" Staton. "When God took her and gave her to me, she was no longer JR's wife," Davidson says. From that point on the couple saw each other virtually every day, Davidson claims, sometimes meeting in hotels. "I met with her a lot of times in a lot of places," he says. "She's my wife. Got that?" Lisa, however, continued to live with JR and their children. Both Lisa and JR joined the church staff in 1988. Davidson says several members of the church's inner circle, including Terry Mai, knew about his relationship with Lisa.

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