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Elena McMahan asked to meet with the Voice in Brighton Beach, in the Brooklyn penthouse apartment that she considers a refuge. Her husband, D. Bruce McMahan, was out of the country, and she said it was the best time to meet and discuss the things that had made him the talk of Wall Street last fall: In September, villagevoice.com published "Daddy's Girl," the story of how McMahan, while legally married to Elena, carried on an incestuous relationship with his grown daughter, Linda, that culminated in a bizarre 2004 wedding ceremony in London's Westminster Abbey.
For the first time, Elena is talking about her own side of the story, even though it may have serious legal repercussions in her current battle with McMahan over the custody of their children.
Through 2004, Elena had grown increasingly suspicious of the relationship between her husband and his daughter, and found in McMahan's computer the evidence of that relationship: eye-opening e-mails between the two of them, and photographs from the Westminster Abbey nuptials.
Elena put that evidence into a court affidavit in January 2005, when McMahan attempted to divorce her. The millionaire in turn tried to convince Linda to produce her own affidavit denying the affair, but she refused. McMahan then launched a legal war that resulted in five lawsuits in five U.S. states.
Documents in those lawsuits spelled out the extraordinary facts in the sordid matter: McMahan, now 68, only learned of his daughter Linda's existence in 1990, when she was a 21-year-old college student. She had been put up for adoption by a woman that McMahan had a brief fling with in the late 1960s, and she had contacted him when she wanted to learn the identities of her biological parents. After a paternity test established their biological tie, McMahan welcomed Linda into his family and funded her college and post-graduate endeavors.
McMahan already had six other children by three different women (he has nine children today). He was a wealthy money manager, maintaining homes in Pelham in Westchester County and on Fisher Island, a wealthy enclave off of Miami. It was at the Pelham house that Linda claims her father first began seducing her, in 1998. She testified that they had sex for the first time in a hotel in London that year on a business trip, and that they carried on an incestuous relationship practically up to the day she married another man, Sargent Schutt, in 1999. After breaking off their affair for a few years, Linda testified that it started up again when McMahan brought her to Fisher Island to recuperate after an illness.
Linda claimed that McMahan then intensified the relationship and even tried to woo her away from Schutt, her legal husband. Their e-mails, included in court records, document the salacious way the father-daughter couple spoke about having sex, and how they called each other "h" and "w" for "husband" and "wife."
Most gruesomely, Schutt discovered a vibrator in Linda's luggage after one of her trips to Fisher Island, and had it analyzed for DNA.
The sex toy tested positive for Linda's skin cells, as well as the sperm cells of her biological father.
McMahan not only denied the allegations in the lawsuits, but he also, not surprisingly, did what he could to prevent the publication of "Daddy's Girl." He also tried to convince the judges to seal the lawsuits, but he was initially rebuffed.
Shortly before publication of the story, McMahan forked over between $5 million and $8 million to settle all five suits and then convinced four of the judges to seal them forever (one judge, in Connecticut, refused, and the documents in that federal case are still free for the public to view). Repeated attempts were made to reach McMahan. Marcia Horowitz, a publicist employed by McMahan, responded to an inquiry with: "You can say Mr. McMahan declined to comment."
By the time "Daddy's Girl" was being prepared for publication, Elena had reconciled with McMahan and wasn't talking about her role in the drama. But reporters who cover the hedge-fund market told us the story was the talk of Wall Street, where McMahan was a well-known player. Since then, the word had gotten back to us that some of McMahan's investors were pulling out of his fund, that McMahan was hardly showing up at Fisher Island anymore, and that he was spending more and more time in a place where few, if any, knew about the details of "Daddy's Girl": the Persian Gulf super-rich enclave of Dubai.
It was Elena who tipped us to that fact. A few weeks ago, she contacted us for the first time, wanting to talk about her husband, his strange, incestuous obsession, and his plans to leave the country.
And she wanted to give us a tour of his Pelham estate, where he first seduced his daughter.
Elena McMahan is disarminglysoft-spoken, keeping her head lowered as she begins a conversation barely above a whisper. The Ukrainian woman wears the head scarf that identifies her as a member of the Orthodox Church, and when she speaks to her children, Vladimir, 5, and Elizabeth, 3, the three of them converse just audibly in Russian. Elena is slender and has striking blue-green eyes, but mostly keeps them lowered. Vladimir and Elizabeth are unusually well-behaved and contemplative.