Double life shatters two families

Baldwin Harbour, New York - Dr Jean-Claude Dominique was living the American dream - twice over, it turns out.

The beloved Haitian-born doctor shared a nice home with his wife and two children. When he wasn't there, Dominique spent time in a New Jersey suburb with his other wife and their two kids.

Dominique's double life began unravelling last year, when the 50-year-old doctor was killed in a hit-and-run accident. The two widows met in a hospital emergency room; the encounter toppled a twisted set of dominoes that ended with an alleged murder attempt.

Wife No. 1 was shot this week outside her Long Island home by two hitmen allegedly hired by her brother-in-law, who viewed Wife No. 2 as the legitimate heir to Dominique's estate, authorities said.

The brother-in-law hoped to gain control of his late brother's estate after the hit, according to Nassau County police.

"Thank the Lord," Eliette Dominique said from her hospital bed after the arrest of Aly Dominique. "I knew it was him."

Aly Dominique was not there on Monday morning when the gunmen opened fire on the 56-year-old widow as she left home for her job as an intensive care nurse in Brooklyn's Interfaith Hospital, police said.

Struck three times, she crawled back into the house and collapsed before her two teen children.

"It was murder for hire," says Charles Sloane, Eliette Dominique's attorney.

The nightmare shooting ended a dream that started two decades ago, when Eliette sponsored a handsome young man's immigration from Haiti. After Jean-Claude Dominique arrived, she paid his way through medical school.

They were wed in 1980, and shared a Brooklyn apartment. He landed a job at Kings County Hospital, starting his ascent on the ladder to success.

But two years later, the doctor secretly married his childhood sweetheart. Marie Betsy Barlabier had followed him to the United States from their Haitian hometown of St. Louis du Nord.

Using a female impostor to pose as Eliette and forge her signature, Dominique - unbeknownst to his first wife - secured an uncontested divorce and married Marie. They set up house in Irvington, New Jersey, where she raised their son and daughter.

Eliette and her husband continued to have "a very normal marriage relationship, a son and a daughter", Sloane said.

"She had no inkling that there was anything more."

In the mid 1990s, the doctor and his first wife moved to Nassau County`s South Shore. He was well-liked, tending to sick neighbours who enjoyed his affable bedside manner.

Dominique didn`t make it home every night. On occasion, he would tell Eliette that he was spending the night at their Brooklyn condo rather than risk falling asleep on the drive to Long Island.

It was near the Brooklyn apartment, just before midnight on April 30, 1999, that his secret was exposed.

A hit-and-run driver in a stolen car slammed into the doctor, leaving him in a coma. Both Mrs Dominiques arrived in the emergency room of Kings County Hospital.

While their husband lingered for 39 days before dying, both wives asserted that they were the legitimate spouse.

Three months ago, a Nassau County Surrogate Court judge ruled in Eliette's favour because Betsy`s marriage was based on the forged signature.

But Aly Dominique, a high school chemistry teacher, apparently sided with the 50-year-old Betsy because she grew up with the 23 Dominique siblings. Aly barred Eliette from attending her husband's funeral and threatened her, her lawyer said.

And then, police charged, Aly Dominique promised two would-be killers about $10 000 if they would kill her.

Marvin Gedin, 20, of Maplewood, New Jersey, and Alexander Exama, 19, of Newark, allegedly botched the hit. Exama was arrested when he got lost trying to flee the Dominique`s waterfront neighbourhood, which is divided by canals. Gedin, a paroled robber, was arrested on Thursday.

Aly Dominique, 44, was held on $500 000 bail on an attempted murder charge. His lawyer, Gregory Watts, denied that the father of a 9-year-old boy was involved.

Eliette Dominique was released on Wednesday from South Nassau Community Hospital, pieces of .22-calibre shrapnel lodged in her head and her right hand.

Asked whether she had loved her late husband, the bigamist doctor's wife said simply, "Yes."

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