By FRANCES SHARPE | Editor-in-Chief
In a revealing interview with the Palisadian-Post, the woman who called Jeffrey Lash her boyfriend for 31 years opened up about her life with the man who has fascinated the Palisades community since his decomposing body was found on Palisades Drive on July 17.
In its Aug. 27 issue, the Post broke the news that a woman named Michelle L. had a decades-long relationship with Lash, who had collected over 1,200 guns, six tons of ammunition and $230,000 in cash in the Highlands condo he shared with another woman, Catherine Nebron.
Michelle, who lived with Lash from 1986 to 1998, claims to have spent over $1 million supporting him during their long-term relationship and says her own Los Angeles condo was a “mini-version” of Nebron’s and alleges that Lash caused about $100,000 in damage to her home. Now that her condo has been completely cleared of all of Lash’s belongings and she has gotten over the shock of his death and the news of the other women in his life, she said, “I am just so happy to have my freedom and that is what I’m focusing on.”
During the one-on-one interview about her relationship with Lash, the successful businesswoman opened up about how they met, what she was delivering to Nebron’s condo every night for all those years, how she learned about his death and those rumors about Lash being a half-breed alien.
FALLING IN LOVE
Michelle first met Lash after trying to recruit him for a multi-level marketing business opportunity in 1984. They talked on the phone several times, then met in person and fell in love.
“He had a presence about him that would draw you right in. He was totally alive, totally there. He made you feel like you were the only person on earth,” she said of the powerfully charismatic man. “He was extremely outgoing, not a loner or a recluse as he’s been portrayed in the media.”
In the beginning, their relationship blossomed in a typical way—they would go to the movies, mountain biking, hiking or rollerblading.
“It was all so normal, except not so normal,” she added, saying that almost from the beginning she had doubts about some of the things he told her.
In the not-so-normal category, Lash would also take her out to the desert for shooting practice.
“He said he wanted to keep me safe so he made me learn how to shoot. I wasn’t really into it, I just did it for him,” she said.
The man she described as “utterly brilliant” and “deeply spiritual” was also very secretive about his real name, and he kept her separate from anyone in his life. He met her family, but she never met anyone from his life for what he said were security reasons.
“That was weird,” she admitted.
Lash moved into her apartment in 1985 because “something had happened” and he needed a place to stay.
Michelle paid all the bills and when she bought a three-bedroom condo in 1987, Lash—and his stuff—came with her.
“He definitely had a lot of stuff and he used almost every closet in the place,” she said. At least Lash was uber-neat, as she put it, and items were perfectly placed in every closet and drawer. Michelle had one room to herself, he had one room of his own and they shared the master bedroom. From the beginning, he kept his room locked and Michelle had no access to it.
After the 1994 earthquake, however, he moved everything out of his room into the main living areas. He said he wanted to tidy up his room and would put everything back, but he never did. Instead, he started adding to his collection of belongings.
“And I was paying for it,” said Michelle, who typically gave him cash to make the purchases. “Everything had to be old bills.”
Lash would tell her he needed all these things for work. And what was it he told her he did for a living?
“He did anti-terrorist negotiations and rescues,” Michelle said, adding that he had a powerful certainty about him that made it believable.
“Everything he asked for was for a specific purpose,” she said. “He needed all these computers because he said he had to keep everything separate for what he did. They were all for different locations. He would say, ‘I need six of these and four of these and 10 of these’ and I’m thinking ‘Why?’ but I was afraid to ask.”
A sense of fear loomed over the relationship.
“He was not physically abusive, but he was very scary when he got angry. I would do anything not to get him angry,” said Michelle, who was forced to keep the curtains and windows closed at all times.
Lash warned her never to touch any of his things—even items she had purchased at his direction. “He made me feel like if I did touch his stuff that I was so wrong, so bad. I used to feel terrible if I brushed by something. I felt like I had done something really wrong,” she said.
Despite the looming fear, Michelle remained devoted to Lash. At one point, Lash brought up marriage, but Michelle didn’t feel the need for a piece of paper to validate their relationship. “We were committed to each other and agreed that we wouldn’t be with anyone else,” she said. “Being loyal and honorable was very important to him.”
Later, she would realize that his talk about fidelity really meant she needed to be loyal to him.
As for those alien rumors swirling around Lash, Michelle didn’t think he believed he was an alien, he just speculated about it.
Lash was a deeply spiritual man who believed in reincarnation. He thought he had been reincarnated many times and believed a person could be reincarnated as something other than human. In his case, he thought he might have been reincarnated as a half-alien.
“He was certainly weird,” she said, adding that his persuasiveness made it almost believable to some people.
NEBRON: THE REAL ‘OTHER WOMAN’
Early in their relationship, Lash was teaching self-defense classes and Michelle helped him set them up and invited people she knew to attend. One of them was Catherine Nebron whom she knew prior to meeting Lash.
Michelle and Lash would go out to dinner with Nebron and her then-husband.
“We were friends,” she said.
Lash would sometimes pay for dinners when they went out, but that was about all he ever paid for. Michelle said she paid the mortgage, bought the groceries and gave Lash cash to support his shopping habits.
In 1998, he told Michelle he was going to Nebron’s to do a project for two weeks. “He never finished the project,” she said.
That was the year Michelle started her daily treks to the Palisades, a ritual that intrigued neighbors in the Highlands condo complex who told the Post they saw a woman dropping off green trash bags every night.
Michelle laughed at that tidbit, admitting that some of the things she has seen in the media about her and Lash are nowhere near the truth.
“I have never met a green garbage bag,” she said. “I would bring grocery bags from Whole Foods or Vons, and I would take the garbage away in white or black plastic bags.”
She said that at first, she would drive to the Palisades every night and she and Lash would go out to eat and go out on the weekends. They enjoyed dining at eateries in the Palisades, such as Tivoli, and also ate at expensive restaurants. “Catherine would not come with us,” she clarified.
Her nighttime visits weren’t the only times she headed to the Palisades.
“I’d get calls during the day saying, ‘Drop everything, I need a tool kit’ or ‘I need to go to the Apple store and get a charger,’” she said.
She had asked Lash not to take her away from her work unless it was a life-threatening emergency. “These were his life-threatening emergencies,” she said.
She and her longtime love would speak several times a day, but that eventually changed.
Lash started to get ill around 2002 or 2003 and according to Michelle, he almost died in 2008 and never really recovered. From then on, they stopped going out and instead she would simply deliver groceries, hundreds of items she purchased for him, ice [because the refrigerator was inaccessible] and cash.
She said Lash required her to bring $1,785 every week for his food, claiming he needed a chef to cook and deliver specially prepared healthy meals because no cooking was allowed in Nebron’s home. Cooking was not allowed in Michelle’s condo either.
Michelle added that she was told multiple times he was so ill he would die without her financial help.
Other expenses included $9,800 per year for a storage unit for a vehicle he never drove but “had to have.” Those payments went on for at least 10 years. All kinds of additional “essential” equipment was required: books, CDs, DVDs, tool kits, computers, iPads, Palm Pilots, cameras, clothing, high-priced herbal remedies and special “frequency healing machines,” two of which cost $12,000 each.
Michelle said her protests were met with admonitions that it was a matter of “life or death.” She believed him.
Eventually he became so ill he had trouble talking and Michelle couldn’t understand what he was saying. Instead of speaking with Lash on a daily basis, she began talking to Nebron—discussing what to bring for him each day.
“I looked after him and helped him and tried to get him well and spent a lot of money trying to keep him alive. As far as I knew he was trying to get well and come home to me,” she said wistfully.
“There was nothing nefarious going on,” she added in response to some theories proposed in the media. “We were just trying to live our lives and help him get well.”
Why didn’t she just stop giving in to his demands?
According to Michelle, she often wanted to get in her car and drive away from all the craziness, but she felt it would be unconscionable to walk away from a desperately ill man she thought was honorable.
One day in July, Michelle placed her usual daily call to Nebron, but didn’t get a call back. When a few days passed and she still hadn’t heard anything, she started to panic.
“I thought he and Catherine had disappeared,” she said.
She drove up to the Highlands condo numerous times and even saw the SUV where Lash was found, but she couldn’t see him in it because his body was covered with blankets.
Michelle called Nebron’s ex-husband multiple times but didn’t get any info out of him. Finally, he called her and broke the news: Lash was dead.
Then he told her to Google Lash’s name.
That’s how Michelle learned about the decomposing body story and that her longtime friend Nebron was engaged to the man she thought of as her boyfriend. Then she learned about yet another woman Lash was living with, Jocelyne.
“Did I know he had 14 cars? No. Did I know he had $230,000 in cash? No. Did I know about the other women? No,” she said.
The shocking revelations rocked her world, but she’s coming to grips with it all now.
Although she had doubts about some of the things he had told her over the years, the one thing she had truly believed about him was that he was honorable. “But he never broke up with me and never told me about the other women,” she said.
Putting aside the hurt, she sees that she and Nebron both spent a lot of years and money supporting him. “I gave 31 years of my life to him and Catherine gave 17 years of her life to him and we both gave him a lot of financial support,” she said.
The fact that distant family members are now seeking a portion of his estate doesn’t seem right to her.
While Nebron is still clearing out boxes and bags filled with Lash’s things from her Highlands condo, Michelle has already completed that part of the process. There’s nothing of his left in her place, she said.
When she was finally able to move out all the belongings and start cleaning up the mess and dust that accumulated over all those years, she estimated about $100,000 in damages had been done to the furniture, carpeting, plumbing, air conditioning and more.
Despite all the heartbreak she’s been through since the news broke about Lash’s death and his secret life with other women, she is trying to stay focused on the positive.
“For 17 years, I could never leave overnight as he required me to be there to ‘guard’ his belongings and to come to the Palisades every night,” she said. “I hadn’t had a vacation in 17 years. Now I can go out at night, I can go to a movie, go out with a friend or go away for a weekend. I have my freedom.”
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