Who you marry might be the most important decision of your life, but it can also be the least rational.

LOS ANGELES — Their first date was at Houston’s, a restaurant in Irvine where he opened the door for her and put her napkin on her lap. Candles flickered along the polished-mahogany bar; jazz drifted from speakers; conversation purred.

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LOS ANGELES — He had lavished her with compliments, and now he savaged her looks. He had entered the marriage broke, and now he demanded half her wealth. He had been gentleness itself, and now he threatened her with “long-lost relatives” in the mob.

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LOS ANGELES — The private investigator told Debra Newell how to make herself a difficult target. Change hotels every few nights. Study the crowd before she entered a room. Ditch her stylish clothes for bland ones. Get a wig to cover her conspicuous blond hair. Blend in.

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LOS ANGELES — John Meehan bragged frequently about his supposed ties to organized crime, and claimed to trace his bloodline to the prolific East Coast hit man who had run Murder Inc. itself. In a life laden with lies, nothing he said could be believed.

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