Date: April 24th, 2012 1:56 AM
Exclusive interview: Nadia Lockyer tells traumatic story of how affair, drugs and deceit led to downfall
Julia Prodis Sulek firstname.lastname@example.org © Copyright 2012, Bay Area News Group San Jose Mercury News
Week after week, messages from Nadia Lockyer came in a barrage of lurid and disjointed emails, texts and photos. They were a confusing attempt to explain her tortured, drug-fueled affair with a meth addict and her crumbling marriage to state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who is three decades her senior. One email that ended "Goodbye to everyone" seemed so desperate, so disturbing that the newspaper called police to rush to her home.
Then, in an effort to be believed and understood, the woman who had held office as an Alameda County supervisor for little more than a year sent us one more email:
"i want to and will tell you my full story, the story of steve and i, bill and i, the night of the assault, my treatment, my recent decision this week ..."
On the eve of her 41st birthday and just days after disgraced San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi recounted his domestic violence saga in public, Nadia Lockyer on Friday sat on the living room couch at the home in the Hayward hills she still shares with her husband and 8-year-old son, apologizing for "all the drama" swirling around her traumatic relationship with Steve Chikhani, a 35-year-old convicted felon from San Jose. She then resigned from office, promising to focus on her family and recovery from addiction.
When the interview moved to a San Rafael cafe near the rehab center she still visits, she explained her layered and destructive journey -- including a near-death car accident and a more recent miscarriage -- that "led me to a place of a lot of emptiness and loneliness that made me connect with Steve and not run as fast as I could away from him."
Her story included more shocking revelations and allegations:
She explained that she was running for office in June 2010 when she met Chikhani at a chemical-dependency program and began her relationship with him. She was dealing with chronic pain and wasn't an addict then, she said.
She said that Bill Lockyer was so upset about her obsession with Chikhani that he told her over the phone during a heated argument one night in February to "go ahead and commit suicide."
She said Chikhani promised to be her protector, but he instead taunted her with his "sex buddies." The night she fought with her husband and he made the suicide remark, she took her son to a Newark hotel, where she says Chikhani grabbed her neck and "bashed my head into the stone floor" -- an allegation authorities are still investigating.
After initially claiming Chikhani had hacked into her email, she admitted she was the author of an email to a reporter last week blaming Bill Lockyer for buying and supplying her with drugs years ago -- an allegation his office called "utterly false."
"It did come from me and I made the mistake of regretting sending it," she said Friday. "I ask the public not to hold anything against my husband for actions that happened a long time ago."
Despite their tempestuous and public unraveling, Chikhani called her Thursday night from a San Jose rehab facility, begging for forgiveness and imploring her to divorce her husband and re-imagine a new life with him.
"When we first met, I saw a young man who had lost all hope in his life entirely -- and for some reason I took it upon myself to restore it," she wrote in an email she prepared before the interview. "Steve and I would have never lasted as long as we did had my altruism not turned masochistic along the way. In the end I wasn't just a bleeding heart, I was a bleeding deer unable to healthfully navigate through Steve's forest of deceit and deception."
Sober for 77 days
A call and text Saturday to Bill Lockyer were not returned. However, he issued a statement Friday saying the last year had taken a great toll on his wife and their son, Diego, and it was best "that she leave public office."
Chikhani's lawyer, Adrienne Dell, said that her client still denies that he hurt her in the hotel room. As far as Chikhani calling Lockyer to apologize, she said he was "soul searching" and reading a letter he wrote to her as part of his recovery. "It was an apology for the entire relationship. There was no admission of any wrongdoing of a criminal nature."
On her birthday Saturday, while her husband was in Sacramento, she took Diego to play in the sand at Coyote Point in San Mateo. It was her first chance since her resignation Friday to make good on her promise to be a good mother. "I have a responsibility to give hope to one human being on this planet only," she said, "and that's my child."
At her home the day before, a soothing version of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" played on her stereo while she told her story of decades of pain and loss that drove her into the arms of addiction and another man. Her eyes big and dark, her body thin and frail, she said she's been sober for 77 days.
At one point during the interview -- in the midst of explaining the devastation she felt when her husband suggested she kill herself -- Bill Lockyer came home with the dry cleaning and quietly went about household tasks before tenderly placing his hand on his wife's shoulder, whispering "I'll talk to you later," then leaving for a meeting.
"We're married. There's no talk of changing that," she said. "We're committed to our son."
They met at a political event in 2002, a couple of years after she nearly died when her car flipped three times on a Southern California freeway. She broke 22 bones, mostly on the left side of her body, and she was on life support for nearly five days and spent six weeks in a physical therapy center. Doctors hooked her to an IV drip of morphine to deaden the pain. That's where she learned "you have this button you push for pain" and went right back to work in a wheelchair.
When she met Bill Lockyer, Nadia Maria Davis -- daughter of a prominent immigrant-rights lawyer -- was back on her feet, a newly minted, 29-year-old lawyer working for a community hospital, and had been elected to her first public office as a Santa Ana school board member. He was the 59-year-old attorney general for the state of California with a long Democratic Party résumé. They talked about litigation affecting an Army base closure.
"For days and weeks after that he tracked me down," she said, before she finally accepted his invitation to dinner. "As soon as we did, we immediately connected and talked for ever and ever and ever."
She had no idea he was 30 years older. "I thought he was 12 years younger" than he was, she said. When he told her his age, "I was in shock, but we were too far into it."
Their son was born two months after they married. One political operative called their union "a match made in political heaven."
Troubles soon began. Moving to Hayward from Southern California, she left behind her family and close friends and never rebuilt a close social circle. She felt controlled by a husband who always wanted his wife and child to travel with him, she said. "I felt isolated."
She took responsibility for her brother, who had been diagnosed with severe mental problems, and moved him into their home.
In the midst of it, she desperately wanted a second child, but her husband, she said, "wouldn't even have a conversation about it." She remembers crying herself to sleep. About five years later, in 2009, he suddenly changed his mind. "It was so flippant for a woman who was 38. Why hadn't he been able to do that before?" She got pregnant quickly, but was heartbroken when she had a miscarriage at four-and-a-half months.
She began feeling that "our marriage was a fraud."
She met Chikhani in 2010, while she was still working for the Alameda County Family Justice Center and was running for county supervisor, a campaign paid for by a $1.5 million donation from her husband's political war chest.
She says the relationship didn't become physical for months, but like being her brother's caretaker, she was drawn to help Chikhani, an addict with a criminal record for fraud. And he provided something she had been missing in her marriage -- "a peer."
"People I'm sure wonder, why the hell was Nadia involved with this guy?" she wrote in her pre-interview memo. "It was more than just our mutual loves in nature, music, movies and food. It was spiritual."
He promised to give her the second child she always wanted.
But by last summer and fall, the relationship became explosive and traumatic, jealous and paranoid. Romantic pillow talk turned to screaming accusations, then tearful apologies. "Drugs and alcohol contributed to the drama and chaos of the relationship," she said, refusing to disclose her drug of choice.
She visited him in jail over the summer, signing in as a defense lawyer, even though she wasn't his attorney of record, saying Friday she didn't know the jailhouse policies.
Last July, the day he was released from Santa Clara County's Elmwood jail, a night spent together turned into a day crying when she felt he was pushing her away. By November, she found him "naked with other women" who knew who she and her husband were, and by January she began receiving messages and photos that made her think someone wanted to blackmail her.
She wanted to hire a private investigator, but she said her husband refused. On Feb. 3, she and her husband fought on the phone.
"He asked me, 'Why have you been talking to him? Why don't you just go ahead and commit suicide?' " she said in an account that was not disputed by Bill Lockyer's staff. His spokesman, Tom Dresslar, said: "It's not the appropriate time to get into the details, but suffice to say they had a heated argument and they both said hurtful things that they regret."
She packed bags for herself and son and checked into the Homewood Suites in Newark to find "a peaceful place." Chikhani called, insisted on coming over as her "protector."
Within hours, however, police were called to the hotel and she was left with traumatic memories, she says, of Chikhani's "eyes staring like stones straight into mine," and feeling his hand clench around her neck. "It haunts me to this day," she said. Chikhani has denied attacking her.
The story had made headlines ever since. Nadia Lockyer entered a rehab facility in Marin, where she felt "my story had yet to be heard and I was so desperate to get it out."
She wrote a suicide letter, she said, and "began to cut a sheet and tie it together, crying nonstop for my child, my son, how on earth could I do this to him." The clinic manager came just in time to stop her, she said.
And now, she says, she's starting to heal.
She imagines a new life, focused on recovery and family. She has already thanked her husband for "his incredible patience and love and understanding despite the things I shared about past hurts and losses." She has also apologized.
"I'll never feel I can do it enough," she said. "He says, 'I know. I know, Nadia. I know.' "