By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"I protected him to an extent. He was making face like he's a good family man."
Today, however, she says that her second sworn statement is untrue, and she stands by her original affidavit. She has no doubt that Linda is telling the truth about the incestuous relationship between father and daughter.
After Elena signed her statement denying the incest, however, McMahan dropped his divorce action, and the couple reconciledat least long enough so that Elena agreed with his request not to speak with us when we called asking about her affidavit.
When "Daddy's Girl" went to print, and during the weeks of settlement discussions as McMahan attempted to have the various lawsuits sealed, Elena says he asked her to go to the Ukraine. She suspects that it was probably to keep her from being questioned about the story, or from being subpoenaed during the settlement talks.
Their reconciliation was short-lived. Since news about McMahan and the lawsuits broke last fall, their relationship has deteriorated, McMahan has refiled for divorce, and Elena now says she's a prisoner in McMahan's big house. She is receiving a "monthly maintenance" payment$49,000as their divorce progresses.
Driving toward Pelham in her light blue Lexus SUV, Elena points out the gilded, framed saints on her dashNicholas, Peter, and Paul.
"They protect me from the troubles. He's in a war, and he's using his own kids. In their claims, it's always about the money. I said to him many times, he has no hearthe has a dollar. He said there's nothing for him to do with business in America after the story came out. In Dubai, people do not care, but in America and in Europe, they don't want to do business with him anymore."
She's an unusually cautious driver, stopping for yellow lights that others would hit the gas to blow through, signaling carefully for the simplest lane change. After an hour's drive, she pulls slowly into the half-moon driveway at the two-story, Tudor-style brick house. She parks near the older Bentley sedan in front of the home's big wooden door. Elena is afraid that the five German shepherds have gotten loose, and she asks a house worker to put them in the basement.
Vladimir hops onto a bicycle. Elizabeth asks for a cookie.
The dark wooden paneling in the foyer makes it seem even darker than it actually is, but there's an orange glow coming from a stained-glass window. Through glass doors, you get a glimpse of the sweeping grounds that make up the four-acre estate, which include elaborate gardens, a pond with ducks, and a playground for the children.
On a table in the entryway, there are photos of McMahan alone and with his daughter Heather. A humidor holds a plentiful supply of hand-rolled cigars.
In a room off to the right of the foyer, two grand pianos can be seen through double doors. On the other side is a sunroom with a large swing and a sideboard with a photo of Linda. It's also where Elena keeps her dried and silk flowers for arrangements, and a few peacock feathers. She and her children live in a few rooms that seem obviously to have been intended by the home's builders as accommodations for the live-in staff. She points out that for all of the home's luxury, she's actually denied access to its main wing, which is up a grand staircase and behind a locked door.
"I am here like a guest. I cannot move; I cannot touch anything. If the kids break something, he makes me pay for it."
Because McMahan keeps his wife locked out of the home's main wing, she can't show us the study and bedroom where, Linda testified, he seduced her by showing her the first half-hour of the movie Braveheart and wondering if the two of them had been married in past lives.
Restricted to her wing of the house, Elena has installed a playroom for the children in what used to be a breakfast nook overlooking the estate grounds. It contains a television and a mountain of children's moviesin English and Russian. She keeps to her side of the mansion, and she and McMahan rarely talk.
"The day he settled everything with Linda, he began to treat me like dirt again," she says.
After a custody hearing last month in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Westchester County, Elena says she became concerned that she and her lawyer were no match for McMahan's legal team. Since then, she has hired a new lawyer who she says is more aggressive, and who intends to subpoena Linda. Even though a judge appointed a guardian for the two small children, Elena says her greatest fear is that her husband's wealth will buy him custody of Vladimir and Elizabeth.
Telling her story now, she hopes, will convince McMahan to stop waging war with her in family court. She wants sole custody of the two children, and she wants his visits with them to be supervised.
"I am not fighting him because of the money," she says. "Nothing could be worse for me than to lose these kids. I cannot imagine for them to be with him alone."