Dangerous Liaison?

Texas Oilman Marries Ukraine Woman

In the spring of 1996, Texas oilman Maple Hughes traveled to Odessa, Ukraine, to find his perfect match. There he met Roxana Yani.

The result, however, as 48 Hours Correspondent Susan Spencer first reported in February, was not a perfect match.

When he first laid eyes on Yani, Hughes was 63 and twice divorced. A matchmaking company, now out of business, hooked him up with the woman 40 years his junior. He was ecstatic, says his daughter Celeste Linton.

The couple got married in Las Vegas in December 1996. The two actually fought before the wedding, Linton says, adding that in the weeks after the wedding, Hughes and Yani continued to fight.

Under confusing circumstances, Yani went to the Ukraine. When after five months she still hadn't returned to the United States, a desperate Hughes went to Ukraine. Upon his return to the United States, he began arrangements to move abroad permanently. He set off for Odessa and three months later died of a skull fracture.

At first the circumstances were not deemed suspicious. But four months after her father died, Linton received a letter in her father's hand, written 24 days before his death. In it, he predicted his own demise.

Said Linton: "The letter said, 'My wife is having sex with Igor, and he's not her cousin and they're plotting to kill me, and they're going to make it look like an accident, and please somebody investigate my death.'"

Linton started pushing for an investigation.

When Ukrainian experts reviewed the autopsy, they found that Hughes had been hit twice on the back of the head.

Convinced that Yani and a man named Igor Goncharuk - whom Yani initially said was her cousin - may have played a part in her father's death, Linton traveled to Odessa to find out more. "At the time, I really thought she had killed him," Linton said. "It just came right into my brain even though I hadn't thought it before."

Yani and Goncharuk say they had nothing to do with Hughes' death. Yani doesn't know what happened to his money, she says. Yani says she wanted an American husband, but notes that she was in love with Hughes.

Yani admitted that she and Goncharuk are not cousins. She said they were once lovers but are no more.

On Linton's second trip to Odessa, authorities reopened the case. They arrested Goncharuk and charged him with murder. The chief investigator thinks that Yani was not involved in the crime.

But Linton was not sure. She decided to confront Yani herself. She went to the ramshackle house where the Ukrainian woman lived. During their two-hour meeting, Linton's conviction about Yani's guilt wavered.

"Do you think really my life is better after Maple died?" Yani asked Linton at one point.

After the meeting, Linton was not sure what to think. "It's hard to hate her," she said of her father's widow.

In the end, Linton left Odessa not knowing for sure what happened to her father. My dad would've wanted us to come and get justice for him," she said. "Dad, if you're looking down, I did the best I could."

Since 48 Hours first broadcast this report in February, investigators dropped a bombshell. The baby Yani claimed was her late husband's was, in fact, Goncharuk's. His trial is just beginning in Odessa.

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