The quest by police to comprehend why a retiree shot 58 people to death in Las Vegas has turned to the gunman’s girlfriend, who has flown back to the United States from the Philippines facing investigators’ questions about what she knew of his motives.
Stephen Paddock, who killed himself moments before police stormed the hotel suite he had transformed into a sniper’s nest on Sunday night, left no clear clues as to his reasons for staging the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
But law enforcement authorities were hoping to obtain some answers from the woman identified as Paddock’s live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo called a “person of interest” in the investigation.
Danley boarded a Philippine Airlines passenger jet in Manila, where she had traveled to before the shooting rampage, for a non-stop flight to Los Angeles International Airport, landing there as scheduled on Tuesday night.
A police official in Manila, the Philippines capital, and a law enforcement official in the United States, both speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Danley was being met by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Los Angeles.
The U.S. source said Danley was not under arrest but that the FBI hoped she would consent to be interviewed voluntarily.
Investigators were examining a $100,000 wire transfer Paddock sent to an account in the Philippines that “appears to have been intended” for Danley, a senior U.S. homeland security official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The official, who has been briefed regularly on the probe but spoke on condition of anonymity, said the working assumption of investigators was that the money was intended as a form of life insurance payment for Danley.
Danley’s return to the United States is the latest development in a case which has baffled investigators for its lack of any apparent motive by the killer. It comes ahead of a condolence visit by President Donald Trump to Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Trump, who strongly supported gun rights during his bid for the White House, now confronts for the first time as president the tragic aftermath of deadly firearms violence that has routinely claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.
On Tuesday, he referred to Paddock as “a sick man, a demented man,” and in response to renewed calls for tougher gun control measures, said, “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
In Las Vegas, police acknowledged being stymied in their initial attempts to determine what drove Paddock, 64, to assemble an arsenal of high-powered weapons in a 32nd-floor hotel suite and unleash a barrage of gunfire onto an crowded outdoor concert below.
Investigators hope Danley may shed some additional light on the carnage, carried out by an individual with no criminal record, no known history of mental illness and no outward signs of social disaffection, political discontent or extremist ideology.
Danley, an Australian citizen reported to have been born in the Philippines, had been sharing Paddock’s condo at a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Las Vegas, according to police and public records.
The homeland security official said U.S. authorities were eager to question Danley, who described herself on social media websites as a “casino professional,” mother and grandmother, about whether Paddock encouraged her to leave the United States before he went on his rampage.
“He sent her away so that he can plan what he is planning without interruptions, in that sense I thank him for sparing my sister’s life, but that won’t be to compensate the 59 people’s lives,” two of her sisters told Australia’s Seven Network television.
Danley’s sisters, whose full identities were shielded by the television station, said that Paddock bought her a ticket to the Philippines.
“No-one can put the puzzles together. No-one except Marilou, because Steve is not here to talk anymore. Only Marilou can maybe help,” they said.