Motive mystery

Marilou Danley, girlfriend of Las Vegas gunman, tells FBI she had no idea of massacre plans

Marilou Danley. (YouTube / ABC News)

The FBI questioned Marilou Danley on Wednesday in connection with the mass shooting carried out by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas on Sunday night. The interview took place at the bureau’s Los Angeles field office and Danley was accompanied by her lawyer, Matthew Lombard. After the meeting, Lombard spoke with reporters outside the FBI office and said his client had no idea about Paddock’s plans for the massacre. In other developments on Wednesday, NBC News reported that investigators are trying to identify and speak with a mystery woman who was seen with Paddock in the days leading up to the shooting rampage.

Danley’s attorney read a statement to reporters from his client. “I am devastated by the deaths and injuries that have occurred, and my prayers go out to the victims and their families and all those who have been hurt by these awful events,” Lombard said on behalf of Danley. “I am a mother and a grandmother and my heart breaks for all who have lost loved ones.” In the statement, Danley said she knew Paddock as a “kind, caring, quiet man.” She said she loved him and had been looking forward to a quiet future with him. She added that Paddock never gave her any warning or reason to believe that “something horrible” would one day happen.  She stressed that she plans to cooperate fully with the investigation. Watch the full statement below.

Late Tuesday night, Danley, Paddock’s girlfriend, returned to the U.S. at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Manila, Philippines. Danley, 62, was seen in footage obtained by NBC News being pushed through the airport as she rode in a wheelchair. FBI agents then reportedly escorted Danley out of the airport through a side door.

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told reporters on Tuesday evening that Danley was again considered a “person of interest” in the investigation. She was initially considered a person of interest in the hours after Paddock, 64, carried out the massacre on Sunday night at the Mandalay Bay hotel, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, before killing himself as police closed in on his room. Officials have said 59 were killed in the attack and more than 520 wounded. After authorities located Danley in the Philippines, they said she was no longer considered a person of interest in the case. Reports indicated that Paddock had used her ID to check into the hotel in the days before the shooting rampage.

As Danley made her way back to the U.S., a clearer portrait of who she is and what her relationship with Paddock was like continued to emerge. Investigators have discovered a vast stash of deadly weapons, a total of 47 guns and ammonium nitrate (a chemical used to create makeshift explosives) in the hotel room from which the attack was carried out, at the home in Mesquite, Nevada, that Paddock and Danley shared and at another property associated with Paddock, Reuters reported. But it’s not clear what, if anything, Danley knew about the arsenal Paddock had been stockpiling or his meticulous planning of the attack. Authorities have also said, according to multiple reports, that Paddock had wired $100,000 to a bank account in the Philippines in the days before the attack. The Daily Mail obtained photos that showed Paddock had visited the Philippines with Danley at least once in the past. In Danley’s statement read by her attorney, she said she wasn’t expecting the $100,000 wire transfer Paddock had made leading up to the attack. She said he’d sent her the money with instructions to use it to buy a house for herself and her family, and that she worried the money was meant as a message that he was breaking up with her.

Marilou Danley and Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock. (Las Vegas Police Department)

The New York Times reported that Philippine immigration officials said Danley had been in the country since late September, then left Manila on September 22 for a brief trip to Hong Kong before returning to Manila on September 25. According to reports, Danley was born in the Philippines but holds citizenship from Australia. Two of her sisters, who live in Australia, spoke out in an interview with 7 News Sydney, an Australian news channel, and said that Paddock had put Danley on a flight to the Philippines two weeks before the shooting rampage. The sisters, who spoke on the condition that their identities were concealed, insisted that Danley had no knowledge of Paddock’s sinister plans and that she was “sent away” so as to not interfere with his plot to attack the music festival.

“She didn’t even know that she was going to the Philippines until Steve said, ‘Marilou, I found you a cheap ticket to the Philippines’,” one of the sisters said, breaking down. “In that sense I thank him for sparing my sister’s life. But that won’t be to compensate the 59 people’s lives.” They said that Paddock’s chilling attack will haunt their sister for the rest of her life. They said Danley is “a good person” and said they are certain she would’ve tried to thwart the attack had she been there at the time.

Danley moved to the U.S. in 1989, the sisters said. According to The New York Times, family members and other acquaintances were shocked when her name began surfacing in headlines in the hours after the attack. “She’s probably one of the most happy, outgoing, full-of-life people I’ve ever known,” Dionne Waltrip, Danley’s former stepdaughter from her previous marriage, told the Times. “Everyone who has ever met her likes her.” Waltrip lives near Fayetteville, Arkansas, and said that Danley and her father, Geary Danley, met decades ago while he was on a trip abroad and were married in 1990. “They were extremely happy,” Waltrip said. “They loved each other very much.”

But the relationship eventually fell apart and they divorced in in 2015, after Danley had met Paddock while she was working as a high-limit hostess at a Vegas casino, where she was employed for 13 years. She has a daughter from that marriage, the Times reported. Paddock had become wealthy and was a high-stakes gambler. The two eventually hit it off, and she ended up leaving her job there.

Neighbors and friends who have spoken out have roundly described Danley has having always been friendly, but some neighbors said the couple kept to themselves, and didn’t fraternize with others who live on their street. Paddock’s younger brother, Eric, said that his brother loved Danley and doted on her. “She was probably one of the only people I’ve ever seen that he’d go out of his way to do a little thing for,” he said. “He went out of his way to be nice to her. This is not something Steve does — go out of his way.”

But workers at the local Starbucks that the couple often frequented painted a much darker picture of their relationship. Esperanza Mendoza, the supervisor of the Starbucks inside the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, told The Los Angeles Times that Paddock often openly berated Danley while the two were in the store to buy coffee. “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,’” Mendoza recalled. “Then she would softly say, ‘OK’ and step back behind him. He was so rude to her in front of us.” Mendoza said that she and the baristas there were stunned when they saw Paddock’s photo in news coverage.

According to ABC News, she told family members that she has a “clear conscience.” In the statement read by her lawyer, Danley said, “It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.”

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