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Wayne's Daughter Says Gunmen Threatened to Kill Her, Financier

October 05, 1988|JIM CARLTON and MARIANN HANSEN | Times Staff Writers

Aissa Wayne, daughter of the late actor John Wayne, said Tuesday that she and her financier companion were threatened with death during a brutal attack at his $3-million Newport Beach estate.

Wayne, 32, of Corona del Mar, and Roger W. Luby, 52, were followed into his electronically gated home Monday morning by two gunmen, who bound their hands and feet and then pistol-whipped them, Newport Beach police spokesman Greg Armstrong said.

"You're messing with the wrong guy. Next time we'll kill you," Wayne said her assailants told her.

Wayne, who was recovering at the home of her mother, Pilar, declined to elaborate, but her mother said: "Her face was beaten. They tied her up with rope. A plastic thing. It was very professional."

Luby's legs were slashed and one of his Achilles tendons cut, police and family members said. The attack lasted only a few minutes and the men fled the scene immediately, Armstrong said. Both Luby and Wayne were treated and released from Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Armstrong said.

Police said the attack appeared to be a warning directed at Luby. Police said the attackers asked the financier if he was Roger Luby and began beating him when he said that he was.

Investigators said they are pursuing leads in several areas, including Luby's and Wayne's personal, social and business contacts.

Newport Beach Detective Sgt. Mike Jackson, who is heading the investigation into an incident that has attracted international media attention, noted that both Luby and Wayne are involved in divorces. He said Luby is also in the middle of a "very heavy lawsuit" over the bankruptcy of a major Los Angeles development project.

Jackson also said he would look into the unusual nature of the attack on Luby. He said that the cutting of the Achilles tendon is sometimes used by criminals as a warning, but it was too early to determine if that interpretation was applicable in this case.

Jackson said the attackers may have chosen to injure Luby's tendon "because he's a tennis nut."

"He loves to play tennis and racquetball, and maybe these guys figured

they'd mess up his nice little social life," Jackson said.

A family friend who answered the telephone at Luby's home Tuesday night said Luby's leg was in a cast, but that the tendon wound "is not as severe as we all thought." Luby declined to be interviewed.

Jackson said investigators were gathering information on numerous possible suspects. He added that the attack was "definitely" a professional hit.

"This was in broad daylight. They were not masked, and that obviously leads to a theory that they were hired, because they didn't care if (the couple) saw them or not," Jackson said.

Wayne's mother, Pilar, said the family has "no inkling whatsoever" who was responsible for the attacks. She said Aissa told her Luby had been receiving mysterious phone calls for the past two months in which the caller would wait, then hang up without talking. One of the calls came the day of the attack.

Police described the suspects as white, between 35 and 40 years old, and armed with handguns.

The attack occurred about 11:30 a.m. when the couple returned from a morning jog to Luby's acre-sized estate, which stands out in a neighborhood of otherwise middle-class homes in the 2300 block of 22nd Street.

As they drove into the driveway through an electronic gate, the attackers followed them. In the garage, one of the men jumped Luby and pointed a gun at him. Luby told police he started to laugh because he thought it was a toy. That is when he was struck.

"They took a gun and beat him with it all over his head," Pilar Wayne said. "He was covered red with blood."

The men then forced the couple to the floor and tied their hands and feet.

"They smashed her beautiful face against the floor," Pilar Wayne said, crying over the telephone Tuesday. "When she went to the hospital, she was all bloody. . . . They cut her eyebrow with a knife. She had a big slash on her right eyebrow, but nothing happened to her eye."

Witnesses told police they saw two men near the estate in a late-model red Chevrolet S-10 pickup. Police said no one saw the attack.

Aissa, the Waynes' eldest daughter, is being divorced from her husband, Thomas A. Gionis, who is an orthopedic surgeon. They were married in 1986. Luby is also being divorced from his wife, Sandra (Sassy) Luby, who is a real estate agent.

Pilar Wayne said her daughter's divorce is "not a very friendly one" and involves a bitter dispute over custody of the couple's 20-month-old daughter, Anastasia Pilar Gionis. The child was with Gionis at the time of the attack, Gionis said Tuesday, adding that the divorce has not been unfriendly.

Aissa Wayne filed for divorce in 1987 and the couple were granted a legal separation in June of that year. They reportedly were scheduled for a mandatory settlement conference Nov. 8 to settle some custody visitation issues.

Gionis, reached at his Upland office Tuesday, said he was "appalled" at the attack on his wife and Luby.

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