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Dead Man’s Float

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Ash says at that point he called the lawyer Gloria Allred, of Laci Peterson fame. “I knew her because of the Peterson case, and I lived around where Laci did. She told me I had to go to the police.”

Ash stopped to direct the movers again, then delivered this doozy. This past September, he said, he was sitting at home speaking to the Jupiter detectives when he got a FedEx box from Phyllis. “A while back, she had me track down two cases of Krug Champagne that went for $2,000 a bottle. So I get this box before Seth’s funeral, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. Is Seth’s head in that box?’ But it was a bottle of Krug with a note that said, ‘The scumbag is dead.’”

At one point, Ash had said that Phyllis had explicitly fessed up and that he had her confession on tape. But now he retreated a bit. Now he told me she had only implied on the tape that she’d poisoned her husband. Still, he insisted that she had, in fact, confessed to him—just not when the tape was running.

I asked Ash if he could provide a snapshot or any other evidence to back up his claim that he and Seth Tobias had ever met. I asked him if I could see the photos of Tobias taken the day he died. He tugged at his cap and shifted his weight. “You really need to call Debra and make a proposal.” He wanted money before speaking to me further. “I’m only telling you one percent of it. Make a good proposal, and I’ll tell you more.”

The next day, I started checking out Ash’s story. Phone records confirm that he talked to Phyllis more than a dozen times in the days after Tobias’s death. At one point, Ash had told me that he had been “deputized” by the San Diego Police Department to tape Phyllis, but the department says it didn’t happen. The Jupiter detectives won’t say if Ash received a FedEx package from Phyllis while they were interviewing him at his home, but really, how likely is that? Under oath, Lucille Schiavone, Tobias’s secretary, maintained that she had heard of Ash only in relation to his attempted shakedown of Seth. And Schiavone said she was the one who handled Tobias’s travel arrangements.

Most reporters covering Ash’s stories have included a quick disclaimer saying Ash had been arrested multiple times for prostitution before quoting him extensively. None of them, however, have gone into any detail about Ash’s criminal history.

When I Googled “William Ash,” the search led me to a 2001 cover story in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, a free weekly. The story documented more than a dozen cons that an overweight man by that name perpetrated on the South Florida gay community. There was a picture: It was the same guy.

The swindles listed in the New Times included stealing the client list of a company that sold goods manufactured by the disabled and setting up a rival company; a stint working at Fort Lauderdale’s CenterOne, an AIDS-counseling center, that ended when Ash was fingered for lying to a tabloid and telling them Tina Turner was a patient; and chartering a boat for his 31st birthday and spending thousands of dollars on flowers and balloons by telling vendors he was throwing a party for Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga and that the Miami businessman would be footing the bill. In 1997, Ash spent six months in jail on a combination of those charges and for running a prostitution ring. At the time, Ash was billing himself as Mr. Madam and boasted he had an offer to write a book about his days as a Heidi Fleiss–like pimp. The book never happened. Ash headed out for San Diego shortly after the New Times story appeared.

David Forest, a prominent agent in the gay-stripper business, gave me Tiger’s phone number. I reached him at his parents’ home outside of Spokane. Now married, Tiger has a baby daughter who could be heard screaming in the background. After the New York Times story broke, Tiger, a.k.a. Christopher Dauenhauer, at first offered a denial of sorts. He didn’t recall meeting Tobias, he told reporters. “I meet a lot of people, I don’t always remember names,” he told me when I asked him to explain. But once Ash’s story gained momentum, Tiger changed his mind. “When I thought about it more, I did remember Seth,” he says.

Then he told me that he hooked up with Tobias six or seven times, including on more than one occasion in Las Vegas. “Seth was a nice guy,” he said. “He was very good to me.” As with Ash, I asked him if there was any tangible evidence that he knew Tobias. Tiger said there was none.


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