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Girlfriend Feared for Life

Mystery: Wiese believed Dabord might try to kill her because he had told her too much about Dele.

October 03, 2002|LANCE PUGMIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She wants to believe his story about the disappearance of his brother, former basketball star Bison Dele, and two others off Tahiti.

But after nearly a month spent agonizing over Miles Dabord's version of events, and learning more about the allegations he was facing when he apparently committed suicide, Erica Wiese has come to interpret her former boyfriend's actions as those of someone "acting in survival mode."

In her first extended interview since reporting Dabord's account to the FBI on Sept. 10, Wiese, 31, said she wants to clarify her involvement with Dabord and let people know, "that I have told everything I know about this; I'm an open book."

"I think he was in a fight with [Dele] that ended ugly," Wiese said by telephone from her home in Northern California late Tuesday night. "Did he say to himself, 'I've got witnesses, now I have to take care of them?' Probably. Why the gold? I think he was going to do what he could to escape.... Once he gave up on that, he overdosed."

Law enforcement officials believe Dabord killed his brother, along with Dele's girlfriend, Serena Kaplan, and boat captain Bertrand Saldo, while at sea on July 7. The next day, Dabord met Wiese on the island of Moorea, near Tahiti, and he was with her until she returned home on July 15.

Dabord, also known as Kevin Williams (his brother's given name was Brian Williams, which is what he went by for much of his eight-year career in the NBA) died at a hospital in Chula Vista, Calif., last week after being taken off a respirator. He was found, comatose and nearly naked, in Mexico and was transported to the U.S. on Sept. 15. His mother, Patricia Phillips, said Dabord died as the result of an insulin overdose combined with his not taking asthma medication.

While the FBI and authorities in French Polynesia wanted to question him about the disappearances on his brother's boat, Dabord was also being hunted by Phoenix police for skipping bail in connection with his allegedly trying to buy $152,000 in gold using his brother's identification as his own on Sept 5.

Wiese said Dabord showed up at the Bay Area high-tech company where she works on Sept. 6, telling her of his failed gold purchase and the reason he attempted it.

"At first, he said, 'I came to tell you I'm leaving, I'm in trouble,' " Wiese said. "Then he said, 'I need to help Bison out, he's in trouble. It's about a missing person; there's been an accident and I need to get Bison money--gold, because it's the portable currency.' "

Wiese said Dabord confided that Karlan had died--and that he was considering suicide because of how the failed gold purchase would make him appear guilty once her death was discovered.

Dabord, Wiese added, was fearful that he was being followed by law enforcement officials and wanted to stay in a Bay Area hotel that night, then drive to Mexico the next day to obtain, "medicine you can't get here."

On the morning of Sept. 7, Wiese said she and Dabord awoke in the hotel room and cried together for more than an hour. She sobbed while retelling the story: "When you've got a man crying in your arms, telling you he wants to spend the last hours of his life with you.... I just wanted to be there for him. We were in love."

They drove to a motel in San Ysidro, Calif., near the Mexican border, where Dabord detailed his account of the three deaths that evening. Wiese said she awoke the next morning, Sept. 8, fearful that she might be in danger because of her knowledge about the deaths.

"I just want to go home," Wiese told Dabord. "I know too much."

She then drove back to Palo Alto, taking a call from Dabord to her cell phone along the way. He had crossed into Mexico. That was the last she said she heard from him.

That night, she said she slept on her couch--a knife and a telephone within arm's reach.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about a scenario where Miles would be saying to himself, 'Holy ..., I've told someone about this, I have to take care of it,' " Wiese said. "That's why I slept with the knife. It was a worst-case scenario."

The FBI does not consider Wiese an accomplice to Dabord, but others, including Kevin Porter, Dele's personal assistant, regard her as a potentially key witness.

"From July 8, when Erica arrived in Tahiti to vacation with Miles, to Sept. 7, when she has said Miles told her exactly what happened, that's about 60 days," Porter said. "You're trying to tell me Miles didn't say anything about this to her between then? This is what keeps me up at night."

Wiese said this was Dabord's account of what happened on the boat: He and Bison were fighting--a combination of past frictions--when Karlan was fatally injured while trying to intercede. Saldo was killed by Dele because the captain wanted to report Karlan's death to authorities. The fight with Dele continued after Saldo was killed, leading Dabord to shoot and kill Dele in self-defense. Dabord said he then weighted the three bodies and dumped them overboard.

"I just listened," Wiese said, "in shock."

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