Houston politician-turned-East-Coast-professor Kathy Whitmire began introducing a tall, hazel-eyed 40-year-old named Alan Robert Wehmer to her friends here as her new beau last spring. The 53-year-old Whitmire, a former city controller and five-term mayor from 1977 to 1991, has been a widow since the '70s. One friend described her earlier this year as "walking on air" over the new relationship.
Rumors of a Whitmire marriage to the man she vaguely described as a Central Texas landowner have circulated periodically since spring, though there were no confirmations.
Yet few of her old associates seemed aware of exactly who Mr. Right was or how he met Whitmire. The couple came through Houston six months ago to visit Kathy's mother and pick up some furnishings bequeathed by a deceased friend. A number of close associates report she has not been in contact with them during the past several months.
What her pals didn't know -- and it's unclear whether Kathy herself did -- is that her mysterious boyfriend has a decidedly checkered past. He is a registered sex offender who reports to the Travis County adult probation department. Now doing appraisal work in Austin, Wehmer's appraiser's license is being challenged because he allegedly did not divulge his criminal record when he applied for it.
Wehmer was charged with the October 1994 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in the town of Wylie in Collin County, northeast of Dallas. A prosecutor says the girl refused to cooperate with authorities and he eventually pleaded guilty to indecency with a child, although his Collin County probation officer says the conviction is listed as sexual assault of a child on probation records. Wehmer received a five-year probated sentence and deferred adjudication.
In January 1996 he was arrested for burglary and theft of a firearm and pleaded guilty to those felonies. His police report description includes the information that he is missing a finger on each hand.
Although the Collin County district attorney moved to revoke Wehmer's probation on the sex offense because of the later felonies, Judge Sue Holland granted him three concurrent five-year probated sentences. During the same period, his wife sued for divorce and ended their marriage.
Travis County records document that Wehmer and Kathryn Jean Whitmire jointly purchased 3.7 acres in Del Valle, outside of Austin. That was on March 12, three days after Wehmer registered with the Travis County Sheriff's Department as a sex offender. The market value of the land and improvements, a prefabricated home, is $72,337. A mailbox in front of the property lists Whitmire and Wehmer as the residents.
Whitmire did not return numerous calls from the Insider to her cell phone and office number in Maryland. The Insider contacted several Houston friends of the former mayor and asked them to intercede with Whitmire to phone the Insider about the relationship. No comments were forthcoming.
Contacted at their Del Valle residence, Wehmer coolly declined to discuss his criminal record and connections to Whitmire. "I have no answers for your questions," he said.
Whitmire is the director of the University of Maryland National Resource Center for Public Leadership and a board member of the Police Foundation, a law-enforcement think tank based in Washington, D.C. Mayor Lee P. Brown, a former police chief, is another board member of the organization. The foundation meanders through a convoluted mission statement: "a way of thinking about law enforcement honed over 30 years of real world experience in how to convert that thinking into practical programs that can be objectively evaluated and applied to improve the quality of public safety."
Whitmire also served as the executive director of Colorado-based Junior Achievement, an organization that works with young people. Then she moved on to the Maryland academic post and a seat on the board of the New York Stock Exchange.
Whitmire's image during her mayorship was that of a fiercely independent feminist. The Insider contacted several Whitmire friends, who expressed shock and disbelief that she would be associated with anyone with Wehmer's background. Their uniform response: Are you sure you've got the right guy?
Six years after the prosecution of Wehmer, Collin County Assistant District Attorney Doris Berry remembers him vividly. She recalls that Wehmer was 34 and married in 1993 when he began an affair with the 14-year-old. She was an honor student and band member, something of a tomboy who did not wear makeup and was hardly a stereotypical Lolita inciting middle-aged lust. The girl's mother was furious, but she couldn't control her daughter and reported the situation to the police. The state prosecuted Wehmer despite the victim's refusal to cooperate.
Under questioning by prosecutors the girl often turned her back and refused to answer, Berry says.
"She was in love with this guy, and it was sad that the day he went and pled, he was under court order not to have any contact with her," recounts the prosecutor. "They were together that night, had sex and were laughing at the judge, saying, 'Hey, guess what, we fooled her.' " Berry says the girl herself gave prosecutors that account after she became disenchanted with Wehmer.
Wehmer was later acquitted of an unrelated criminal mischief charge, before being convicted in 1996 of the burglary of a convenience store where he was working.
"A gun was underneath the counter," recalls Berry. "The girl was connected to all this, and that's how we found out about it and what was going on. He had set up the burglary and made it look like someone was breaking in. It was actually an inside job because the windows or doors had been left unlocked."
Although the district attorney wanted Wehmer's probation revoked, Judge Holland chose to release him with the three five-year probations. It was a leniency Berry does not understand to this day.
"We had pled [the sexual assault case] because the girl was going to be so difficult, and we wanted him on probation so we could watch him, hopefully to keep him away from her."
A source says that during a stay in Collin County jail after one of his arrests, Wehmer became a minister in the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California, an organization that sells ministries through the mail. A church spokeswoman says Wehmer was ordained in June 1996.
According to Berry, Wehmer does not come across, at least to the unsmitten, as a minister or a knight in shining armor.
"He was gross, missing one or two fingers. How could that kid be attracted to him? Good-looking? God, no."
Wehmer moved to the Wimberley area in 1997, where he registered with the Hays County sheriff and adult probation. He reportedly stayed at local resorts during the off-season. Because of his status as a sex offender, Wehmer was prohibited from staying in a residence where children were present.
He apparently met Whitmire in Wimberley and moved to the Austin area last year, where they purchased the Del Valle property and he started an appraisal business. An investigator with the Texas Appraiser Licensing Board confirms the agency is investigating Wehmer's license, though he declined to discuss the specifics.
Wehmer's probation on his three felonies is set to expire June 25.
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Told that Wehmer is now associated with a prominent Houston woman with a law-enforcement connection, Berry sounded amazed and concerned for Whitmire. According to her, the Wehmer she prosecuted was an unconscionable exploiter of women, young and older.
"He had this kid brainwashed, basically. He convinced her that he really loved her, and all he was doing was just using her," says Berry, who believes that Wehmer similarly exploited grown women.
"He goes from one extreme to another," says the prosecutor. Told the Press was researching a story about Wehmer's background, she exclaimed, "More power to you. He's a slimeball."
Make an early New Year's resolution to relay your news tips to the Insider. Call him at (713)280-2483, fax him at (713)280-2496, or email him at email@example.com.By Tim Fleck