By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Linda testified she was asked in front of the others when she and Schutt planned to have children. "Soon," she replied.
The next day, Bruce asked to meet her in the lobby of a hotel. When she arrived, carrying paperwork for the McMahan Center, she began to speak with him about ideas for the foundation. But he became enraged.
"His face became red. He clinched his fists, and he raised his voice.... He told me that having children was not part of the plan."
Bruce told her he was ending the foundation and no longer planned to pay her. (He did cut her off, but the foundation still exists.)
"He told me that I was not able to have children and be committed to the project," she testified.
She returned to her career in psychology and accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Mississippi. She and Schutt moved to suburban Jackson. She and Bruce didn't speak for months. Then, on May 25, 2003, Linda's adoptive father, Laird Hodge, a retired government contractor, died in San Diego. Linda and Schutt traveled to the funeral in La Mesa, California. Bruce sent flowers and e-mailed Linda his condolences, but they still didn't speak.
The stress of losing both fathers Hodge to death, Bruce to indifference weighed on Linda, she testified. It also wrecked her health. From Bruce she had inherited a genetic condition called Reiter's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the soft tissues and can affect the eyes and, more seriously, the heart. Linda had a bad flareup and developed cataracts in both eyes.
"I became very ill. I was experiencing heart problems, and the doctors at the University [of Mississippi] Medical Center indicated to me that I would need surgery on my heart," she testified.
Bruce sent one of his two private planes to ferry her from her home in Mississippi to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The treatments she received there helped, and she began to recover. Her father insisted she come to Fisher Island to recuperate so she would have access to a spa and to the Argent Center, a posh retreat McMahan had built to entertain his family and his billionaire clients. Bruce, she testified, didn't want her to go back to Mississippi or her marriage. He wanted her to leave behind the fellowship in clinical and rehabilitative neuropsychology, and he persuaded her to return to work for him.
"I told him that I had given up opportunities based on his promises to me in the past," she testified. "And I told him that he wasn't to abandon his promise to me and that it was to be a strictly normal father-and-daughter relationship."
She accepted a position as executive vice president of marketing for two of her father's financial firms, Argent Funds Group LLC and McMahan Securities. But things didn't stay normal for long.
"It changed from a loving, supportive father caring for an ill, vulnerable daughter to a manipulative, contingency-based rewards/punishment relationship that created my dependence on him and gave him control and dominance over me," Linda testified. According to Linda's court complaint, Bruce again initiated an incestuous sexual relationship in April 2004 that lasted for more than a year.
In June the couple flew to London with a twisted plan: to get married where the kings and queens of England are crowned.
"We traveled to London for some business, and during that trip Bruce took me to the Westminster Abbey and we exchanged vows," Linda testified in her deposition.
Besides her testimony, there are the cheek-to-cheek photographs documenting this unusual ceremony.
There is little description in court records of how the couple made the ceremony happen in the very public church on June 23, 2004. Photographs inside the sanctuary are prohibited, so only the two of them would know if there was anything more to it than two well-dressed tourists walking up and performing a little ritual during visiting hours.
They took their photos with the Little Cloister Garden as a backdrop. One picture shows them sharing a chaste kiss.
According to several people close to the litigation, a ceremony at Westminster Abbey made sense because Bruce is an Anglophile who counts among his heroes Adm. Lord Nelson, the British naval hero who died in the Battle of Trafalgar. Also, Bruce is said to believe his genes are exemplary and saw in Linda the best match for his own superiority.
Four days after the ceremony, Linda wrote in an e-mail: "You asked me afterwards if I felt different. Near, I don't, but at a distance, I do. I am glad about this and feel the insecurities slipping away."
In other e-mails, they began to sign off as "H" and "W," references to husband and wife. In one e-mail, dated June 29, 2004, Bruce wrote: "Miss you W. Think nasty things about you all the time." Linda answered a couple of hours later: "Mmm yeah, nasty is so good. You must have read my mind. What else can we say, we're H & W that's the beauty."
"It is an attraction that's like no other," says Joe Soll, a New York psychologist and the only expert in the field he pioneered genetic attraction.