'Fake' Online Love Affair Becomes Legal Battle


Bonhomme: $10,000 Spent on Gifts

During regular phone calls, which Bonhomme claims St. James managed with the help of voice-altering technology, Bonhomme learned that "James" had a 6-year-old son named "Rhys," an ex-wife named "Krista" and a sister named "Alice."

Not only did "James" talk about his friends and family, Bonhomme alleged that St. James also took on their personas in emails and sent her packages and letters appearing to be from them. "Rhys," Bonhomme said, sent her drawings, and "Alice" sent her several emails.

They also traded several gifts which, according to her suit, cost Bonhomme a total of $10,000.

Bonhomme said that among the "little trinkets" she received from "James" were a kazoo, because he had been llama rancher and played the instrument for the animals; a rubber duck with a firefighter's hat, picked out by his son; and a piece of wood in which he had carved their initials.

In return, she said she gave him an iPod, bath products, assorted DVDs and CDs, wine and other nicknacks. She also sent his "family" gifts too, like a fire truck quilt for his son and a silver necklace for his ex-wife.

At the same time, Bonhomme said she and St. James (as herself) were becoming friends online, frequently exchanging messages about James.

In an email included in Bonhomme's lawsuit she says that in August 2005, St. James sent her an email saying, "I hooked up with Jesse [James] this afternoon. …He looks FABulous. …He talked Paula, Paula, Paula, Paula, More Paula, Paula, and Oh This about Paula for 45 minutes and it was all so good."

The lawsuit claims St. James wrote in other messages, "Whether they LIKE it or not, I'm hooked up to everyone he [Jesse] know[s] somehow" and "he wants you."

Over the course of their relationship, Bonhomme said that she and "James" tried to meet face-to-face, and that she purchased plane tickets to visit him. But as each potential meeting approached, she said some misfortune -- often elaborate -- would befall him.

Plans to meet over Easter fell through when James learned about his long-lost father and wanted to fly to Pakistan to see him, Bonhomme said.

Bonhomme's Friends Confront St. James in Video

When Bonhomme learned of "James'" sudden death -- through a "blunt" email from his sister Alice, she said -- it was St. James who was there to console her. (Although "James'" son "Rhys" sent her a condolence letter and his sister "Alice" sent her emails.)

The day after his supposed death was the first time the two women spoke on the phone and, soon after, they traveled together to Colorado to visit what the lawsuit calls "Jesse-related sites." While there, Bonhomme said St. James produced a letter apparently written by "James" that detailed his "dying wishes" and professed his love for her.

It wasn't until February 2007 -- nearly two years after they connected on the "Deadwood" message board -- that Bonhomme said she learned the truth.

Suspicious of her all-consuming online relationships, Bonhomme's offline friends did some digging. When St. James flew to California on a separate trip to visit Bonhomme's home, the friends confronted St. James about the alleged Internet ruse on video camera.

Now posted to YouTube, the video appears to show St. James responding to the friends' accusations. When asked if she'd apologize to Bonhomme, a woman identified as St. James says "it wouldn't be taken the right way." Later, she says, "I'm not destroying anyone's life." St. James never directly admits to creating a hoax on the video.

After seeing the videotaped confrontation, Bonhomme, who was not present in the video, said she was "in shock for probably the first hour."

"I couldn't understand it. ... Once I had time to think about it, I got really freaked out because I didn't know what would happen," she said. "I was suspicious of everyone, even my new puppy. ...Nothing appeared to be what it was."

Since sharing her experience -- both on a blog and through her lawsuit -- Bonhomme said she's been contacted by at least five other women who claim to have fallen victim to St. James' alleged deception. Bonhomme said one woman, who claimed to be a former roommate of St. James, said she was similarly tricked into a romantic relationship with fake lover through letters in the 1980s.

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