Bogus Special Forces training,
war injuries and marriage
On Christmas Eve, 2003, Phil Haberman took a woman to the buffet at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. They met on Match.com and had been seeing each other since early December— a whirlwind romance. Haberman doted on the woman, calling her 15, 20, 30 times a day, she says. “He always did the right things,” she remembers. “I was thinking I might have something here.”
Haberman had told her that he served in the Marines from 1989 to 1998, and was now in the Special Forces of the U.S. Army. He was trained as a sniper, underwater specialist and crypto-linguist. He also did some acting—walk-on roles such as a Marine in the television show JAG.
The single mother supported her 13-year-old daughter by working as a legal secretary in Las Vegas. At the moment she was unemployed. Haberman had swept into her life, with the help of his dog. At their first meeting—lunch at the Palms— Haberman learned that she was a dog-lover and owned two purebred Akitas. He said he would soon be shipping out to Iraq, and asked her to take care of his dog, Jake, while he was overseas. She agreed—it was the least she could do for a soldier.
Within days, Jake moved in—along with his owner. Haberman wanted to make sure his dog was going to adjust, the woman says. He, of course, would sleep on the sofa. “It would be nice, one of these days when I get married, to have my own home and my own bed,” he said, according to the woman. “You and I would be great together.”
After a couple of days of sweet-talking, Haberman was no longer sleeping on the sofa.
On Christmas Eve, though, the gung-ho military man was crying. He said he might not come back from Iraq. He wanted to settle down and have kids. If he was blown up over there, he just wanted to live life. “Let’s get married,” Haberman said.
The woman thought it was too soon. But, she says, “he really made me feel guilty that the opportunity was there and if I didn’t take him up on it, I was missing out on a really great guy.
“Since he was an honest military man with 14 years of service, I thought I could trust him.”
Phil Haberman and the big marriage pitch
Haberman’s arrival in the home of Kristen Rhoad was not without problems. Geisha, the female Akita, did not like him or his dog. And the 13-year-old daughter had difficulties with the man immediately. “I thought she was not used to someone coming into the family, taking me away from her,” Rhoad says. “I thought it was jealousy.”
Haberman, however, decided the daughter had a discipline problem. The two were fighting, and mom says she didn’t know whom to believe. So when Haberman insisted that her daughter go away for counseling for a couple of weeks, mom thought it might be positive. At least it would defuse the home situation.
In early January, Haberman told Rhoad he had to leave for a five-day military briefing in Utah. She had done some modeling, so he suggested that she try dancing in a strip club to make some money. She did—for three days.
Haberman, back from his trip, showed up at the strip club on the evening of January 9, 2004. “Come on, let’s go home,” he said to her.
Back at her place, Haberman made his pitch. Here’s what he said, according to Rhoad: “I’m getting deployed to Iraq; I’ve got 72 hours to get to Fort Bragg. Let’s get married. I want to be married, and if anything happens to me, you’ll get all the military benefits. I’ll send you money; I’ll be making $70,000 a year.”
“He made it sound too good,” she says.
Wedding day surprises
The next day, January 10, 2004, they got married. Haberman, however, didn’t have any money—she had to give him $200 to pay for the marriage license and ceremony before a judge.
Then, as soon as they walked out of the courthouse, Haberman told his new wife that he had to leave.
Rhoad stood on the courthouse sidewalk, dumbfounded. “What?” she said. “You said you have to go in three days.”
Haberman insisted that he had to leave immediately, and take their marriage certificate with him. So his wife packed him a lunch, gave him $300 for gas, and he was gone.
The next day, Haberman called from Texas, where he was staying with a woman whom he described as a friend. “So 24 hours after marrying me,” Rhoad says, “he’s with another woman.”
Assault allegations against Haberman
The marriage quickly crumbled. In fact, when Haberman returned to Las Vegas in February, Rhoad alleges that he raped and assaulted her, administering an intravenous solution with medical equipment he brought back from Fort Bragg.
She ended up in the emergency room, with 19 pills of Xanax in her system. Then she spent three days in the Montevista Hospital, a psychiatric facility, on suicide watch. Rhoad blamed Haberman and reported the incident to Haberman’s commanders, believing the military had jurisdiction. It wasn’t until June, 2004, that she reported the incident to the police in Henderson, Nevada.
According to the police report, Haberman said she became depressed and attempted to take her own life. Rhoad admits taking two Xanax—after days of arguing with Haberman, she just wanted to go to sleep. But she alleges she was not suicidal, and Haberman administered the overdose.
“I’m such a fighter,” Rhoad says. “Why would I commit suicide in front of him?”
The case was administratively closed by Henderson police.