By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
This good news was compounded with the birth of his first daughter in 1981. By this time, according to his first wife (who asked not to be named for this story), the family lived in an apartment on Memorial, rent courtesy of Ross's father-in-law.
The couple divorced in 1983. As with Karen Thomas, it didn't take long for Ross to move on.
This next one was a knockout: Ten years Ross's senior, she started modeling for Florida businesses in her teens, and by her twenties, she was frolicking through commercials for Kodak, Maxwell House and Aqua Velva. She was under contract for a game show, filmed at a Palm Beach resort, where contestants paddled around man-made lagoons in little boats, searching for prizes. Remarkably prolific, she modeled for both the Sears catalog and Playboy. She threatened to sue the Houston Press if we printed her name, so we'll call her Victoria.
In 1973, she and her husband moved to Dallas and opened an absolutely enormous Christmas gift store. She divorced her husband in 1983, the same year Ross divorced his first wife.
It's unclear how Ross met Victoria, but because the former model was often spotted cruising around Houston in a Rolls-Royce, it makes sense that Ross took an interest. Almost immediately after they met, Ross got her to lend him $24,000. For collateral, he promised the house on Grape Street that was still in his ex-girlfriend's father's name.
The couple was married June 29, 1984, and split up 27 days later. Victoria sought an annulment, and Ross sued her over what he called a fraudulent prenuptial. Ross accused Victoria and her lawyer of conspiring against him, but he may just have been jealous of the fact that Victoria had so much more, like an $800,000 house, a vacant lot valued at $900,000, a $600,000 American Express cash management account and a 1983 Porsche convertible. Ross loved Porsches.
Victoria's petition for annulment claimed she was coerced into the marriage, and that Ross had surreptitiously relieved her of $250,000. Her lawyer accused Ross of dodging deposition questions, and not producing the documents he asked for — namely, tax returns, passport and information on any bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. And when Ross petitioned to depose Victoria, her lawyer accused him of going on a fishing expedition.
In a 1985 motion for protective order, Victoria's lawyer wrote "the Respondent Gary Doelling is currently under investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's Office for [alleged] acts of fraud and theft [perpetrated] against [Victoria] and other victims. Respondent intends to use the deposition...as an artifice to obtain general discovery to prepare for his criminal offense." [There are no records of fraud or theft charges against Ross in Harris County; if there were an investigation, that information would not be in the public record.]
Meanwhile, Ross's attorney, Mark Atkinson — now a criminal court judge — filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, stating his belief that "conflicts of personality, philosophies and respect for the laws of this state differ in such wide degrees that representation of the client would be at best ineffectual, and not in the best interest of this client, the practice of law and the ethics, rules and regulations under which any attorney should practice law."
While the lawsuit languished, Ross met his third wife.
Donna Hughes already had two teenage daughters when she met Ross.
By this time, there was a judgment against him for the Grape Street house, and he decided he needed a fresh start. In June 1986, he legally changed his last name to Ross, stating in court documents that he "wants to avoid the embarrassment that accompanies the charge of a felony that was subsequently dismissed." (The motion does not state the nature of the charges, and a search of court records did not turn up any relevant documents.) That same month, Ross welcomed his second daughter into the world.
Ross's brother Randall, a real estate agent, wasn't too embarrassed by Ross's past troubles to let Ross's new family move into a Sugar Land home kept in his name. It appears that, shortly after he met Donna, he began rounding up investors for a stake in a massive time-share resort in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, called the Pond Bay Club. He would, of course, have to spend a great deal of time on the island to oversee the project. It turns out he would wind up living there a lot sooner than expected — and not necessarily by choice.
According to a 1987 Fort Bend County Children's Protective Services report, an investigator looked into allegations that Ross abused his 17-year-old stepdaughter. Investigator Mable Rogers wrote the following: "The allegations of physical abuse were validated."
Per the report, the initial complaint came not from the stepdaughter, but from one of her friends, who told their high school principal, who in turn called CPS.
After interviewing the stepdaughter at her high school, Rogers wrote the following: "Child went to summer school today with sunglasses on — her mother told child to tell everyone she was in a car wreck, but child told [her friend] that her stepfather beat her last night. Child has a black eye, a welt on her forehead — looks like a knuckle print; and lots of scratches on her face....Child's 13-year-old sister verified that stepfather beat child."