John Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, who was beaten along with her millionaire boyfriend in a mysterious attack this week, alleged that her estranged husband had threatened to kill her if she ever left him, according to statements she filed in the couple’s divorce and child custody case last year.
Thomas A. Gionis also was physically violent during their 16-month marriage, Wayne alleged in a complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court as part of her petition for divorce and custody of their 1-year-old daughter, Anastasia.
Despite Gionis’ contention earlier this week that the divorce and custody fight over their daughter has been “friendly,” the massive, foot-thick court file which is filled with allegations of family strife paints a different picture.
In fact, Gionis’ own attorney alleged in a court document that Aissa Wayne scrawled “Declaration of War!” in red ink on divorce papers that had been served on her.
Gionis, 34, an orthopedic surgeon from Pomona, denied the allegations of abuse in court documents and accused Wayne, instead, of concocting the charges. Wayne was awarded custody of the child after their June 4, 1987, separation. The couple, legally separated last year, are still going through divorce and custody proceedings.
Gionis, who on Tuesday said that he and Wayne got along so well that “we have coffee and doughnuts,” declined any further comment Wednesday. But his lawyer, Mitchell B. Ludwig, called Wayne’s charges “a lot of nonsense, propaganda and totally unfounded.”
Wayne could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Newport Beach police investigating the attack on Wayne, 32, of Corona del Mar, and her boyfriend, mortgage financier Roger W. Luby, 52, said Wednesday that they were looking into Wayne’s marital affairs as part of their investigation. But police spokesman Bob Oakley said that detectives are concentrating on Luby’s financial affairs, since he was singled out by name in the attack.
Wayne and Luby were bound hand and foot and pistol-whipped Monday morning after returning from jogging to Luby’s $3-million, electronically gated estate in Newport Beach. The two gunmen--still at large Wednesday--asked for Luby by name, and then tried to sever one of his tendons, police said. Wayne said afterward that the men threatened: “You’re messing with the wrong guy. Next time, we’ll kill you.” Both Wayne and Luby were treated and released at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach.
Oakley said Luby’s involvement in multimillion-dollar litigation over the bankruptcy of a downtown Los Angeles rehabilitation project “leaves more avenues open to a motive.”
Luby’s renovation of the historic Broadway building at 4th Street and Broadway went bankrupt last year, he has said, because a group of Oklahoma investors pulled out when the project was more than halfway completed. Luby subsequently filed suit against the investors, and the case is set for trial in December in an Oklahoma federal court.
Ludwig, Gionis’ attorney, cautioned anyone against inferring that his client had anything to do with the attack, noting that since the original filing for divorce, there have been no more allegations of abuse.
No formal abuse charges have been filed in Los Angeles County, where the couple lived.
Ludwig said that Wayne and Gionis now enjoy a “fairly amicable visitation agreement” and added that Gionis had the couple’s daughter at the time of the attack.
Officer Oakley, too, said that abuse allegations “are fairly common in divorce stuff.” But he added: “We’re not discounting anything at this point.”
In documents filed in Orange County Superior Court, Wayne said she left Gionis last year because he had mistreated her, their baby and her two other children from a previous marriage. She fled with her children from the couple’s Pomona home and hid out for nine days with her mother, Pilar Wayne, the papers show.
“In the last few weeks,” Wayne wrote the court in June, 1987, “he has made such statements as ‘I would kill you in an instant without hesitation'; ‘You will be dead before you say something against my baby,’ and ‘I would kill anyone who interfered with my baby.’
“He also told me, ‘If you let them (Wayne’s other children) interfere with my plans, I will kill them.’ These threats have occurred with such frequency and have been made in such an emphatic manner that I am convinced of his intent to carry them out,” Wayne’s statement said.
Just weeks before their separation, Wayne said an enraged Gionis hurled a chair at a mirror and knocked a hole in the closet while shouting epithets as she held their screaming baby.
“He shoved and pushed me so hard that I had bruises on both arms, which lasted for over a week,” Wayne said in the court documents. “In another instance, he shoved his finger in my face and said, ‘You will not see the baby for even one hour if anything should happen to us (their marriage).’ ”
Gionis countered in court documents that Wayne suffers from delusions of paranoia and made the same death-threat allegations against her second husband after the breakup of their marriage.
In the records, Gionis recounted an incident in which he said he and his wife were dining in the Irvine Hilton and a smoke alarm went off by accident. He said Wayne jumped to her feet and exclaimed to the whole room: “It’s a bomb! I told you (her second husband) would get us.”
The charges and counter-charges were presented to an Orange County Superior Court commissioner who decided last year to award custody of the couple’s daughter to Wayne. The court allowed Gionis to visit his child, and no order was signed barring contact with Wayne.
However, the court ruled earlier this year that custody of the daughter would go to the husband if Wayne moved from Orange County, as Gionis claimed that she was preparing to do at one point. The child also is not to be moved out of Orange or Los Angeles counties until the custody matter is resolved. A mandatory settlement conference on the dispute is set for Nov. 18.
Wayne was also reprimanded by the court for failing to attend two depositions in the case last March. She was fined $750 in one instance and $1,000 in the other and incurred the wrath of another of her husband’s attorneys:
“Although it is undisputed that Aissa Wayne is the rich and famous daughter of John Wayne, this gives her no right to flagrantly and repeatedly disregard the . . . rules,” attorney George James Stephan wrote the court after the missed appearances.
Times staff writers Mariann Hansen and Carla Rivera contributed to this story.