ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP, 1997) - Margaret Anne Hunter had been a bride four months before she discovered just how big a mistake she had made: Not only was Thorne Wesley Jameson Groves not Mr. Right, he wasn't even a mister.
Thorne Groves - whom Ms. Hunter first met through an America Online "chat room" - was really Holly Anne Groves, a woman who claimed to have AIDS to avoid intimacy in the bedroom and who bound her breasts with elastic bandages because of what she said were chest injuries suffered in a car accident.
Ms. Hunter said that when she confronted Ms. Groves with her suspicions - confirmed, once and for all, by a look at Ms. Groves' passport photo - the woman admitted the deception but gave no explanation.
"He wasn't after my money, because I don't have much," said Ms. Hunter, who still refers to her husband as "he." "I know that what he did was incredibly hurtful and cruel and fiendish. As to why he did it, I don't know. I don't think Thorne knows, either."
Ms. Hunter is seeking an annulment. She also filed a $575,000 fraud suit against her husband to recover, among other things, the cost of the lavish wedding her parents put on last spring.
"I was not the only one deceived. My parents, my friends, all the guests at the wedding. We all feel taken," she said.
Ms. Groves' mother, Janis Groves, called the lawsuit "lies" but said neither she nor her daughter had any further comment.
No criminal charges have been filed.
Ms. Hunter, 24, and Ms. Groves, 26, met online in 1995. Ms. Hunter said Ms. Groves used the name Thorne Groves and described herself as a man versed in travel, foreign languages and other interests Ms. Hunter shared. Lengthy daily e-mail became daily telephone calls and then a rendezvous in New Mexico.
By the time they met, Ms. Hunter said, she was already in love.
After investing so much time getting to know someone online, she said, "you have no real reason to question whether what they are telling you is true. You certainly have no reason to question their gender."
Her lawyer, Seth Guggenheim, put it this way: "If you met someone in a bar and he said he had a Jaguar and you go outside and there's no Jaguar, you might be suspicious. That cannot happen online."
In the wedding photo, the groom's strapping physique yields no clue that Ms. Groves is a woman.
How could she share a bedroom with Ms. Groves for four months and never discover the truth?
Before they met face to face, Ms. Hunter said, Thorne Groves told her he had AIDS. He proposed a quick marriage because he had only a short time to live. Thorne Groves was so concerned about transmitting AIDS that he restricted intimacy to petting and fondling over his clothes and went so far as to wear a prosthetic penis to further the ruse, according to the lawsuit.
Ms. Hunter never met any of her husband's friends, and no one from his family attended their wedding at a suburban Washington hotel.
A few times during their marriage, mail or telephone messages appeared for Holly Groves, Ms. Hunter said. Thorne Groves said Holly was his twin sister, but Ms. Hunter and her family became suspicious.
"We weren't thinking he was a woman. That wasn't it. We just knew things weren't adding up. Something was wrong, and I couldn't put my finger on it," she said.
By August, the couple had broken up. The marriage had gone sour because of Ms. Groves' refusal to get a job, and she returned to live with her parents in Bryant, Texas.
Eventually, the Hunter family obtained a birth certificate and other records for Holly Anne Groves - including her passport photo.
"I recognized my husband. And then it just all clicked. I finally understood," Ms. Hunter said.
Ms. Groves apparently no longer has an account on America Online. As recently as late November, a Thorne Groves was still active on America Online and using the nickname "KingSicko."
The Associated Press