An investigation into a brutal attack last October on Aissa Wayne, daughter of the late actor John Wayne, and her financier boyfriend, Roger W. Luby, now centers on a Los Angeles private investigative firm hired by her ex-husband during a child custody dispute, court records show.
The private investigator, O. Daniel Gal, was seen parked on the street near Luby’s walled estate in Newport Beach on the morning of the Oct. 3 attack, and an employee of Gal who walks with a limp matches the description of one of the two attackers, Newport Beach police said in search warrants and affidavits filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court.
Jerry Hintergardt, an employee of Gal, is being sought for questioning, Newport Beach police detectives said. Gal’s firm was retained by Wayne’s ex-husband, Pomona orthopedic surgeon Thomas A. Gionis, during a child custody battle stemming from the couple’s divorce last summer, according to court records. Detectives said Tuesday that they had not yet located Hintergardt, who was last known to be living in Los Angeles.
“We want to determine if, yes or no, is he a suspect,” Newport Beach Police Lt. Tim Newman said. “All we want to do is talk to him.”
Gal, in statements to police, at first denied knowing Hintergardt and later admitted using him as an investigator about 2 years ago. Lt. Newman said police want to talk with Hintergardt to clear up those “inconsistencies” in Gal’s statements.
Newport Beach Detective Michael Jackson conducted searches at Gal’s Century City office and Beverly Hills apartment 2 weeks ago after obtaining warrants from Orange County Municipal Judge Karl C. Frank and Orange County Superior Court Judge Phillip E. Cox. Jackson said in an affidavit that he requested the warrants because Gal was not cooperating fully with the investigation.
After seizing telephone records and checking receipts and assorted other documents from Gal’s home and office during their searches, police have determined that:
- Gionis paid Gal $40,000 over a 2-week period 1 month before the attack. Gal’s firm, which police said was hired to monitor Wayne’s activity, had been paid about $25,000 by Gionis in a 5-month period before that.
- Seven calls were placed throughout the day of the attack from Gal’s mobile car phone to Hintergardt’s Los Angeles telephone number. The calls occurred several hours before the noon attack on Luby and Wayne and several hours afterward.
- Gal, in Europe after being questioned by police, sent a number of overseas messages to his family and subordinates, giving them instructions on how to thwart the police investigation into his affairs. Gal had refused to give police his home address or mobile telephone number.
Among the messages was a Feb. 11 directive apparently sent by fax machine from Gal to a subordinate identified only as John:
“Here is an idea if (Detective) Jackson wants my former address in New York. Give him the address of the Plaza Hotel in New York. That ought to keep him spinning.”
The same message contains this instruction for Gal’s sister, Emmy Gal, who works for him in his Century City office:
” . . . if he (Jackson) asks you anything, you can be like Sgt. Schultz (a character in the television program, ‘Hogan’s Heroes’). ‘I know nothing.’ Whatever you do, don’t give him my home address. Then everything should be OK.”
Gal could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Hintergardt’s telephone number in Los Angeles has been disconnected. Neither Gionis nor his attorney, Mitchell Ludwig, returned repeated calls for comment on Tuesday.
Wayne, 32, of Corona del Mar, declined comment on advice of her attorney. But Luby, 52, whose Achilles tendon was slashed in the attack, expressed elation at the turn in events.
“To say the least, we’re pleased that there is a lead and it’s in the right direction, I think personally,” said Luby, whose involvement in a multimillion-dollar suit over one of his business deals had also attracted some attention by Newport Beach police as a possible motive.
“We’re surprised the police got this far,” Luby added. “And we’re happy no one forgot us.”
Wayne and Luby were bound hand and foot and pistol-whipped after returning from an aerobics workout to Luby’s $1.75-million, electronic-gated estate, which he has since auctioned off to help pay bills.
Both Taken to Hospital
The two gunmen asked for Luby by name, and then tried to sever one of his tendons, police said. Police said the suspect matching the description of Hintergardt warned Luby and Wayne: “You’re (messing) with the wrong people. If you screw up again, you’re dead.”
Both Wayne and Luby were treated at a local hospital and released. Luby said Tuesday that Aissa Wayne is doing well. “She’s got some emotional scars, but she’s standing up quite well,” he said, adding that his ankle, while still numb, has healed enough for him to resume playing tennis.
“I played tennis yesterday (Monday) for the first time (since the attack),” Luby said.
Immediately following the attack, police pursued a number of possible motives, including Wayne’s acrimonious marriage with Gionis.
Wayne had alleged in court divorce files that her estranged husband had threatened to kill her if she ever left him and that he was physically violent during their 16-month marriage. In an October interview, Gionis, 34, maintained that the divorce and custody fight over their young daughter, Anastasia, had been “friendly” and that he and Wayne got along so well together that “we have coffee and doughnuts.”
Wayne originally had temporary custody of the couple’s child, but last month, an Orange County Superior Court judge denied her custody, calling her “emotionally immature” and questioning her commitment to parenting. Judge Robert E. Owen ruled Jan. 30 that Gionis should raise the child but allowed Wayne visitation rights every other weekend.
During their investigation, police interviewed a construction worker who had been near the scene of the attack. The construction worker reported seeing men matching the descriptions of both Gal and Hintergardt leaving the Luby estate. The worker, Glenn Torrez, told police that in the hours before the noontime attack he saw a man later identified as Gal sitting in his late-model Ford Thunderbird and making calls from his mobile telephone.
Gal, when questioned by detectives a few days after the attack, acknowledged that he had posted himself outside Luby’s home that day but said was merely conducting routine surveillance on Wayne and knew nothing of the attack, the court records show.
Torrez said that one of the men he saw leaving the Luby estate walked with a pronounced limp. He further described the man as blond, 35 to 40 years old and about 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 200 pounds. Hintergardt, 37, also walks with a pronounced limp and is blond, 6 feet, 1 inch and 200 pounds, according to court records.
When asked by police if he had ever employed a man of this description, Gal initially said that he had not and refused to name the investigators currently in his employ, Detective Jackson said in an affidavit. After police discovered from other law enforcement sources that Gal, indeed, had an employee who fit that description, Gal told police that the man worked for him a few years earlier and that he could only remember his first name, “Jerry.”
However, during the search of Gal’s office, Jackson found an employee file on Hintergardt, as well as telephone records showing seven calls made on the day of the attack from Gal’s mobile phone to Hintergardt’s home telephone. The records show that calls had been made from Gal’s mobile phone to Hintergardt’s number 5 other days in the 2-week period preceding the attack.