EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - It was a heartbreaking story that he says had East Texans generously giving him money, shelter and supplies. But as KLTV 7's Christine Nelson investigates, the story he told us and the volunteers who have helped him is all a lie.
Shelter volunteers across East Texas have heard first hand devastating stories of how Hurricane Katrina tore families apart. However, there was none like the one that was brought to our attention from volunteers at the Smith County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
The story was told by Ray Johnson. In an interview with KLTV 7, he described how he tried to get his wife and three-year-old son to the attic to safety when New Orleans floodwaters came rushing in.
"I didn't ever think I was going to lose my son and wife no never... no. A gush of water hit me in my chest and I lost my balance for about three seconds and when I did, my son went over the back of my neck and over my wife's head and into the water. I turned around and I seen my wife go under. When I got to her I went under and I picked her feet up to hurl her up and she fell over. And she was floating to I knew she was dead," said Johnson.
Ray goes on to say he pulled his wife and son's lifeless bodies to the attic, where he covered them up with sheets.
He claims he got his strength to go with the help of God. However, he also got strength from East Texas volunteers, touched by this man's traumatic loss.
Like other evacuees he was taken in at First Christian Church in Tyler where for about two weeks he was provided with clothes and a shoulder to cry on.
Other volunteers, we are told, are letting him stay at their place until he gets back on his feet. Churches were also helping him arrange his wife's and son's funeral here in Tyler.
One East Texas good Samaritan told us Johnson said it was going to be a very long funeral and that he was going to have a guitar player and a pianist and songs picked out.
Burks Walker Tippit Funeral Home was donating the materials and services for the funeral; a package worth about six to seven thousand dollars.
But things began looking terribly wrong when we received a call from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Officials there told us "Ray Johnson" is not who he says he is. They informed us that he was sentenced to jail or on parole from 1998 to 2004, making Ray's claims that he lived in New Orleans since 2001 False.
An email we received from his sister-in-law confirmed it.
We also spoke to the mother of the supposed "Ray Johnson" and she confirmed he is really "Walter Ray Stall'. She said that he never lived in New Orleans. She told us she is raising Walter's two kids in Palestine and he is estranged from his real wife.
On September 28, the man who calls himself "Ray Johnson" came by our studios for a follow-up interview and again discussed the generosity he's received from East Texans.
Here is a quote from the man claiming to be Ray Johnson:
"The man who is here with me, he's helped me. A couple of other people has helped me. I'm waiting on FEMA to give me their part, because the president said you're entitled to 2000 dollars and that check has been mailed."
It was then time to confront Walter Stall about what we discovered. First we showed him a mug shot from an arrest in Tarrant County.
When we asked him if it was him he said, "I guess it is. But it's not true."
Then we handed him copies of his past arrests, including the one that kept him in jail or on parole through 2004, years he claims he lived in New Orleans.
Here is a transcript of his response:
Stall: "This is not true... This is not true...
Christine: It includes injury to a child
Stall: Yes, that's the only thing that I've had in my criminal record, was injury to a child.
Christine: All this information we're getting is public record. Straight from the Texas board of pardons and paroles. I don't understand why that information wouldn't be correct.
Stall: "I... I...I have no idea."
After the interview, Sheriff's deputies moved in to arrest Walter Stall on outstanding criminal warrants out of Anderson County for theft of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
It didn't stop Walter Stall from continuing his story...
Sheriff: Are you Walter Stall.
Walter Stall: No sir, I'm Ray Johnson.