When Albert Tony Walker was asked Feb. 23 if he was ready to enter a plea on 16 counts of rape, he stood silent for about 30 seconds before answering.
“Yes sir, I guess so,” he finally said before entering an Alford plea on all counts, thus closing one of the most bizarre cases in Rabun County history.
Superior Court Judge Linton “Kim” Crawford then sentenced Walker to 10 years of prison followed by 10 years of probation as part of a negotiated plea.
Walker, who turns 64 later this month, remained defiant to the end, refusing to admit what he had done. An Alford plea means a defendant is not confessing to any crime but acknowledging that there is enough evidence to convict him.
Walker haggled for a nine-year sentence and held out to the very end before accepting the sentence that was offered.
Kirsten Ferguson, the woman he was charged with raping while overseeing “The Church” during the 1980s and ’90s, sat with her sister, mother and two other former followers on the front row behind prosecutors. One of the women who was forced to perform sex acts with Walker as a young girl wiped tears from her face.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the courtroom, Walker’s wife, Dalene, a former co-defendant, and a half-dozen of his children showed outward displays of emotion.
Ferguson, now 31, had no doubt why Walker dragged out his plea: “just so he can be the one to call the shots, just to be the one in control.
“He’s a demonic person, and he uses God for his cover-up for everything,” she added.
Ferguson said there was a difference between God and what Walker said was God.
Walker had absolute authority over people living in the commune at 5853 Plum Orchard Road. At one time, between 40-50 people lived on the property, most of whom were children. He claimed he was trying to fulfill the “Third Testament” and that it was his duty to mete out harsh punishments while waiting for the end of days.
“There’s not one inch of anything in my heart or my brain that would let me believe that anything in him had anything to do with God,” Ferguson said.
The control Walker had over his subjects began about 1978 when he was preaching his interpretation of the Bible in California. He developed a following, and a small group of people moved with him in 1980-81 to Kilgore, Texas, according to a search warrant affidavit in the case.
Walker began exercising greater influence and would slap those who nodded off during his daylong sermons. He began testing relationships by showing affection for female followers while preaching that there would be times in which God would “take us through this to show us the devil.”
Part of Walker’s teachings was preparing members for when the government would come to the property to try to destroy “The Church.” They participated in drills to prepare for the end of the world. An underground shelter with ventilation was built; in it were kept clothes, food and assault rifles with ammunition.
“We had no clue what was going on anywhere, I mean zero clue. We were stuck up there always,” Ferguson said.
Walker preached about his admiration of cult leaders David Koresh and Jim Jones. He called members to come in and watch the standoff of the Branch Davidians, which ended tragically on April 19, 1993.