In the foyer of 435 East Beach Drive, a moveable children’s play area is filled with toys, sections of train tracks, a couple of crayons, and cars that make up a sprawling locomotive. Trinity Walker said her two sons, 3-year-old Wren and 2-year-old Max, are obsessed with “choo-choos.”
Their play area, which is usually moved to a non-visible area of the Walker home when guests come to visit, can be seen from the desk inside of Scott Walker’s office or the dining room table, where Trinity Walker sat on Tuesday and talked about Wren’s fascination with the children’s show “Thomas and Friends.”
“Wren sounds like he has a British accent,” she said, because the tot adopted words, phrases and vocal tendencies from the show based in England.
Trinity, wearing all black with Christian Louboutin leopard-print pumps, sipped white wine as she spoke about finally being able to rest and relax again now that her husband Scott is home from a one-year stint at a minimum security prison camp in Pensacola, Fla.
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“The first night Scott came home, it was a lot of fun,” she said. “He loves Mary Mahoney’s, so we had it for takeout. We played with the kids and did absolutely nothing.”
Scott’s homecoming brought noise, celebration and peace back into the home that has a front-yard swing overlooking the water, dilapidated piers and iconic Coast islands.
The mood was different the day he left for prison.
Scott Walker was sentenced July 23, 2014, for convictions of fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government. The charges, in part, involved federal money given to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, which then used the money to buy a waterfront lot Scott Walker owned. He and former D’Iberville City Manager Michael Janus also each pleaded guilty to fraud involving an unearned $180,000 finder’s fee Janus secured for Walker.
Walker surrendered at the prison camp in December 2014. The day he reported to Pensacola, Trinity said everything happened so fast, it was hard for her to process until she walked back inside of the home the two of them purchased together in March 2012, eight months before they married on the front lawn.
“We just left there (Pensacola), and I was like, ‘OK, I’m not going to let myself get upset about this.’ I’m going to drive the kids home, and we’re going to have a regular day,” Trinity said.
“I remember when we got home, I walked in the house, and I didn’t know what to do. It was so quiet. It was earlier than I would normally be home from work. We had several hours before bed time and bath time, and I just sat in my room and cried and cried.”
Trinity remembers calling her sister, who immediately drove to the home for a sleepover, which would be the first of many over the next 12 months.
“I felt like the next year we kind of spent having sleepovers with everybody,” Trinity said. “It was a tough time. I was really sad because I would have been fine if it were just me. I would have been OK. But I felt bad for the kids.”
The first night in the house without Scott was the hardest for Trinity, but she said she did not have time to stop and sulk. She had a full-time job and two young boys to raise.
“It kind of was just survival mode for me,” she said.
“I told myself, ‘Alright, I’m going to figure it out.’ I’d never changed a light bulb. I’d never changed an air filter. I mean, I had no idea ... I had been living in this great house all this time, and I thought everything took care of itself.”
Scott’s mother, Sharon Walker, and Trinity’s grandmother had both recently retired, so they were able to help Trinity get into a schedule that would give both Trinity and her boys a sense of normalcy while Scott was in prison.
Sharon Walker picked up Wren from preschool while Trinity worked.
“When I got off, we would eat at her house, I would get the kids, I would come home, and I kept everything very routine so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary for the boys,” she said. Once at home, Wren and Max had playtime, took baths and got ready for bed.
“I kept them very busy,” she said. “I didn’t want them to ever wonder where Scott was or why he wasn’t there.”
Every weekend while Scott was in Pensacola, Trinity, Sharon Walker, Wren, Max and a member of Trinity’s family made the drive to Florida. Sharon Walker and Wren usually headed over on Friday night. On Saturday, the rest of the gang followed after a trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru to grab breakfast for Wren and Max.
Trinity never missed a weekend, she said, because she did not want Scott to miss anything or feel left out.
“It certainly wasn’t fun, but I just keep thinking that if that were me, of course, I would want to see my kids and my husband,” she said.
“We knew if somebody got a birthday invitation or some function on a Saturday night, we weren’t doing it. Our weekends for that year were strictly devoted to going to Pensacola.”
Max turned 1 while Scott was locked up, and Trinity chose to have only a small dinner at her home to celebrate. She later followed with a bigger party with Scott during visitation at the prison camp.
“I didn’t want Scott to feel like he was missing out, and I didn’t want Max to look back at pictures and realize that Scott wasn’t in them,” she said.
An uphill battle
While Scott was away, Trinity said she gained a lot of responsibility and learned a lot about herself.
She said she filed taxes by herself for the first time and was responsible for managing several bank accounts and conducting payroll for employees of Scott’s businesses.
“I think I did everything well. I mean, honestly it just sounds pathetic, but growing up my dad took care of everything as far as the house goes. Once I got with Scott, we bought this house, and it kind of went from my dad taking care of everything to Scott taking care of everything.”
But the bills got paid. And the maintenance on the house got done. And the boys were raised. And the employees got paid.
“I learned a lot of stuff,” she said. “I tried my best.”
Trinity said she never thought twice about supporting her husband, although she admitted she never thought she would be married to someone who went to federal prison.
“If this were me, he would be there for me,” she said. “I think that our marriage is stronger. I think that I’m a stronger person. I think that I’m a better person. I would never wish this on anyone, but I think in the long run, it’s done an enormous amount of good for our family.”
Facing the critics
Trinity Walker was never on trial, but to her, it felt that way when she read online comments that came about from news articles that chronicled Scott Walker’s involvement in the DMR scandal.
From his initial arrest in Gulfport to court proceedings in Hattiesburg to sentencing in front of Judge Keith Starrett, Trinity was always by Scott’s side. She said people took note and said harsh things.
“Everybody was just so mean about it,” she said. “We were very public, but the stuff they said was just so rotten. They don’t know us. Everyone behind a computer screen is so brave, but (people) were always really nice to us to our face -- it was just survival mode.”
Trinity said reading the comments was often infuriating, and raised her blood pressure.
But she chose to never respond to negative remarks.
“You never want to let that hurt your feelings, but when it happens so much, you can’t help but see some of the negativity. More than anything, it’s just sad that people act like that,” she said.
Trinity said some people who had terrible things to say online were people Scott’s family considered close friends. But she and Scott are grateful for the strong support system true friends and family offered.
“He’s such a great guy, such a hard worker,” she said. “I think he gets a lot of flack and people are ugly to him. And they don’t know him.”