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FBI agents spent Wednesday questioning Marilou Danley, the longtime girlfriend of the Las Vegas gunman and considered an integral key by authorities trying to understand what drove Stephen Paddock to open fire from his casino hotel room.
Paddock killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500 on the Las Vegas Strip before killing himself. Danley was in the Philippines at the time of the attack and arrived in Los Angeles late Tuesday. She was met by FBI agents at the airport and questioned Wednesday.
After being questioned, Danley said in a statement that she had no clue about his plans to carry out the massacre and pledged to cooperate with authorities struggling to determine what sparked the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
“I knew Stephen Paddock as a kind, caring, quiet man,” said Danley in a statement read by her lawyer Matthew Lombard, a criminal defense attorney. “He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen.”
Danley, 62, said Paddock bought her a ticket about two weeks ago to visit her family in the Philippines and then wired money to purchase a home for Danley and her family.
“I was grateful, but honestly, I was worried, that first, the unexpected trip home, and then the money, was a way of breaking up with me,” she said. “It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.”
As investigators continue to search for a Paddock’s motive and question Danley, new details have emerged about both.
Danley is from the Philippines, but she lived for many years in Australia, where authorities have confirmed she is a citizen.
Danley has two sisters who live in Australia, according to news outlets there and old Facebook posts by the sisters, which have been deleted in recent days.
Australian media have identified the sisters as Liza Werner and Amelia Manango. On a Facebook account that has been deleted, Werner is friends with Danley’s ex-husband and others Danley knew. And in a picture posted by Werner, Danley appears with the two women as well as Danley’s daughter. The caption reads, “Sheila and the three sisters.”
The sisters did not respond to messages or calls.
But two women identified as her sisters told an Australian television network Wednesday that they believe Paddock arranged Danley’s trip to the Philippines so that she wouldn’t interfere with his plans.
She was shocked to know she was leaving, the women told Seven Network Australia on camera with their faces blurred.
“He sent her away so that he can plan what he is planning without interruptions,” one of the women said. “In that sense I thank him for sparing my sister’s life. But that won’t compensate the [dead] people’s lives.”
Authorities say that before the shooting, Paddock transferred a large amount of money to the Philippines — close to $100,000. His brother, Eric Paddock, said he thought the gunman may have been trying to arrange for Danley to be abroad before carrying out the massacre.
Danley is considered a critical witness in trying to decipher Paddock’s motive, according to a person familiar with the probe. While investigators have described Danley as a “person of interest,” they have not suggested that she is considered an accomplice or involved in any way.
Federal agents — who are assisting the Las Vegas police in the investigation — have essentially two critical questions for Danley: Did she have any idea what motivated him, and did she have any knowledge of what was about to take place and not alert authorities?
Given how little has emerged in Paddock’s past that could foreshadow the attack, the “best lead is through this girlfriend,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
The women identified by Seven Network Australia as her sisters agreed.
“No one can put the puzzles together — no one except Marilou,” one of the women said. “Because Steve is not here to talk anymore. Only Marilou can maybe help.
“She probably was even more shocked than us because she is more closer to him than us. You know, to be able to find out the person you love and live with can do such a thing? And you thought you know the person yourself.”
How they met
As early as August 2013, Danley was already living with Paddock, according to public records. She was separated at that point but still married to another man, Geary Danley.
Geary and Marilou Danley were married in Las Vegas in 1990.
In 2002, Geary and Marilou Danley moved into a home in a brand-new development in Sparks, Nev. Like everyone else on the street, they bought the lot and had a home built on it, said John Heidenreich, her neighbor two doors down. He said the Danleys’ house was the first completed in the 15-home neighborhood. He recalled Danley as a friendly woman who showed up at neighborhood barbecues and other social events on the block.
Danley was working then as a high-limit hostess at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nev.
“I guess she just liked that casino lifestyle,” Heidenreich said.
“They seemed like great people,” he said of the couple.
Heidenreich said he was surprised when the couple separated. Danley’s former stepdaughters, who now live in Arkansas, told local TV reporters that they separated in the spring of 2013, at which point Geary moved back to his native Arkansas.
According to court records, the couple filed for divorce on Feb. 25, 2015, and it was finalized the next day. During her divorce, Marilou Danley listed a downtown Reno apartment as her address, which was owned by Paddock.
Paddock met Danley while she was working at the Atlantis Casino, said his brother Eric Paddock.
Paddock was a frequent gambler at the casino where Danley once worked. He was such a regular that his entire family once took over the top floor at the casino’s expense, his brother said.
“They were adorable — big man, tiny woman. He loved her. He doted on her,” Eric said at his home in Florida. The two often gambled side by side, he said.
Employees at a Starbucks in Mesquite, Nev., however, described the couple’s relationship differently. A supervisor at the coffee shop told the Los Angeles Times that Paddock often berated Danley in public. The Starbucks is the only one in town and is inside the Virgin River Casino.
“It happened a lot,” Esperanza Mendoza, supervisor of the Starbucks, told the Times. He would verbally abuse her when Danley asked to use his casino card to buy food or other things inside the casino, Esperanza said.
“He would glare down at her and say — with a mean attitude — ‘You don’t need my casino card for this. I’m paying for your drink, just like I’m paying for you.’ Then she would softly say, ‘Okay’ and step back behind him. He was so rude to her in front of us.”
Danley has a daughter in Los Angeles and a grandchild, according to relatives and public records.
Her daughter, Sheila Darcey Linton, is an artist who lives in Los Angeles and is married to Micah Linton, scion of a wealthy business titan. Her father-in-law, Michael Linton, is the CEO of Promega, a biochemistry company.
The couple have one child together, according to a 2014 picture posted on Micah Linton’s Facebook account. And they live in an expensive home in Venice with a market value of roughly $2 million.
On Wednesday, the five-bedroom home had sheets tacked up across the windows, preventing anyone from seeing inside, including TV news vans camped out in front waiting for any sign of Danley or her daughter.
Danley’s daughter describes herself online as an artist and tech worker. In a biography posted on her personal website, she cites her mother’s strong influence on her.
She said she tried to be a “dutiful Asian daughter to make my mother proud” by pursuing a degree in computer science in college. She later switched her focus to fine arts, she said. “Fortunately, my mother, who was shocked and disappointed, didn’t disown or belittle my decision,” Linton wrote. “Instead, she stood by me and demanded the same excellence in this path as she did in the last. Her love never wavered. It was merely my perspective of her that changed.”
Life with Paddock
At one point, Danley worked for an airline company, said Elizabeth Tyree, a neighbor in Reno, where Danley and Paddock lived together in a retirement community. Danley later worked for Avon, the cosmetic sales company and tried to sell their products to other residents, Tyree said.
Paddock, 64, bought and sold several properties in recent years as a way of making money, according to relatives and property records. The couple traveled all the time, never staying at any of their homes in Reno and Mesquite, Nev., very long. Neighbors say the couple would disappeared for long stretches — sometimes for months at a time — during Paddock’s gambling trips to casinos.
In Mesquite, an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, the couple left mixed impressions among residents.
Many recalled seeing Paddock at a bar named Peggy Sue’s and Eureka Casino. They described him as silent, sullen — never talking to anyone.
He was a regular at the Virgin River, a smaller, dingy casino with card games and machines — from penny slots up to $1 machines.
In Reno, neighbors also described Paddock as standoffish but recalled Danley as extremely sweet and friendly. Next-door neighbor Tyree said Danley hugged her when she saw her.
This summer, Tyree saw Danley and Paddock moving a mattress and got a glimpse inside their garage, which was completely empty. Tyree asked Danley whether they were moving, and Danley said they had bought a new house but were not moving out of Reno.
Another neighbor, Susan Page, who moved next door to the couple this summer, said she had not seen them since August. Paddock had recently bought a new silver minivan, she said, and Danley drove an SUV. On the third week of August, Paddock left the house. Soon after, Page said, Danley packed up her car as well, as if she were moving away.
More details have also emerged on Paddock, the gunman.
A real estate broker who helped Paddock sell multiple properties in California more than a decade ago said the future gunman expressed dislike for taxes and the government — even selling off a series of buildings in California to move his money to the low-tax havens of Texas and Nevada.
But the agent, who asked not to be identified discussing Paddock, said Paddock did not appear to be political or ideological. A person familiar with the investigation into the massacre said these anti-government views alone did not explain why Paddock would head to a 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, break out the windows and open fire into a crowd of unsuspecting citizens.
The emerging portrait of Paddock suggests a man of considerable means who liked guns, gambling and women, but who so disliked interacting with people that he sought to avoid talking to them.
Property records show Paddock sold several low-end apartment buildings and commercial buildings in California in the 2000s before purchasing an apartment building in Texas and homes in retirement communities in Florida and Nevada. Between 2003 and 2004, Paddock sold at least three commercial properties in California for a total of more than $5 million.
Paddock would buy apartments, move into them to keep an eye on his investment, but “still would employ other people to talk to the tenants because he didn’t want to talk to the tenants,” the broker said.
The aversion to human interaction even extended into Paddock’s flying, said the broker, who, like Paddock, enjoyed piloting personal planes.
At the time of their acquaintance, Paddock had a sleek new aircraft — a Cirrus SR20. On the handful of flights they made together, Paddock would map out his path — steering away from controlled areas — just to avoid having to talk to the air traffic controllers, the broker said.
Paddock’s dislike for human contact, the real estate broker said, was in part why he preferred playing video poker, a type of gambling that does not require interaction with other players.
Paddock’s wardrobe did not bespeak of a man of wealth, said the broker. Paddock often went out unshaven, in sweat pants and flip-flops, even on his thrice-weekly excursions to casinos, where he ate at the buffet.
Paddock stored the Cirrus at a Mesquite Metro Airport hangar between 2007 and 2009, according airport workers. The airport staff had little recollection of him, said Lt. Brian Parrish of the Mesquite Police, “because he paid his bills on time and didn’t cause trouble.”
His flying hobby appeared to come to an end in 2010. Because of a medical restriction — he needed glasses for near vision — Paddock would have been required to renew a medical certificate to fly. But once his expired in 2010, he never tried to renew it, a Federal Aviation Administration official said.
From 1976 to 1985, Paddock worked federal government jobs: as a letter carrier for the Postal Service, an agent for the IRS and an auditor for U.S. government’s Defense Contract Audit Agency, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Neighbors in several states where he owned homes in retirement communities described him as surly and unfriendly.
His Father and Brothers
Relatives say the roots of Paddock’s loner lifestyle may have been planted July 28, 1960. On that day, when Paddock was 7, a neighbor from across the street took him swimming. The neighbor at the time told a local newspaper that she knew authorities were coming for his father, a bank robber, and she wanted to spare the boy the trauma of seeing his father hauled away by authorities.
From that point on, Paddock’s family was never the same.
His mother struggled to raise him and his brothers on her own. His father escaped from prison — twice — and had little more contact with them, relatives say. As they grew older, Stephen, the eldest, and the youngest brother, Eric, kept in touch, but Stephen Paddock drifted almost completely out of touch with his two other brothers, Bruce and Patrick.
Eric said that Stephen stopped talking to his brother Bruce because Bruce used to beat him up when they were kids and that Stephen stopped talking to Patrick because they’re very different people.
Even with Eric he never talked much. They created a lucrative real estate investment business together, but Stephen would only text Eric now and then.
“We didn’t talk much. We talked when there was something to talk about,” Eric Paddock said. “Steve had no help. Steve did not take help. He was a stand-alone guy.”
Choking up as he talked, Eric said, “Steve was like a dad surrogate. He took me camping. I liked my brother. He was a good guy.”
Stephen Paddock went to John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in the Los Angeles suburbs, his brother said.
Judy Smith Nelson, a retired federal worker living in Las Vegas, was stunned when she first saw that she and the alleged shooter were the same age — 64. Then a friend texted her a picture from an old high school yearbook.
“I couldn’t believe it. I recognized the face. We had been classmates,” Nelson said Tuesday.
As investigators continued searching for a motive, anyone who had come into contact with Paddock over more than four decades began to wrestle with what they knew of the man and whether there had ever been clues of what would come.
Former California state senator Richard Alarcon, who had gotten his start as student body president of John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in 1971, posted a note to friends on Facebook on Tuesday saying he remembered playing basketball with Paddock at a neighborhood court.
Another classmate remembered Paddock showing up at a 20-year reunion and repeatedly angling to talk to her.
Nelson, in Las Vegas, fished through an old box of keepsakes and found a 10-year reunion program that contained a one-line description that each classmate had written. Paddock’s read: “Single, accountant, has traveled to Hollywood, lives in Sepulveda [Calif.]”
“We’re all just reeling, and here I have kind of a personal connection, being that we walked the same grounds, we were from the same area,” Nelson said.
After high school, Paddock attended Cal State Northridge. He was married and divorced twice. Both ex-wives — one in the Los Angeles area, the other in the Dallas suburbs — declined to talk to reporters.
Julie Tate, Abigail Hauslohner, Aaron Davis and Mark Berman in Washington; Ally Gravina in Reno, Nev.; William Dauber and Becca Rothschild in Los Angeles; Barbara Liston in Orlando; and Michael Lyle in Mesquite, Nev., contributed to this report, which has been updated.
William Wan is a national correspondent covering health, science and news for The Washington Post. He previously served as the Post's China correspondent in Beijing, roving U.S. national correspondent, foreign policy reporter and religion reporter.
Sandhya Somashekhar is a national correspondent for The Washington Post. She has covered social issues and politics, and was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that documented the thousands of people shot and killed by police every year.
Marwa Eltagouri was a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. She left The Post in 2018. She previously worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, where she covered crime, immigration and neighborhood change.
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