By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"It was a bad feeling from the start," she says, "and this isn't a hindsight thing. For example, Rudi's trying to pick up on me and he totally blows off Annette, the girl he supposedly wants to marry. I told Cindy later, 'These guys are gross.'"
But Cindy already was starry-eyed over Michael. He was five years her junior, but seemingly had done so much with his life--banking, computers, the German Air Force and, now, international travel.
"Cindy told me to back off and not to burst her bubble," Kathy continues, "that Michael had asked her to marry him. She kept saying, 'He's so into me, he's so into me, this gorgeous German guy. He wants to marry me.' I told her to just try and keep her feet on the ground."
Cindy didn't follow her sister's advice. Within days, she was wrapped up in Michael.
"I'm in a whirlpool situation," she wrote in her diary a week after meeting him. "Annette and I met two guys from Germany and we've gotten ourselves a big pickle of a situation. . . . See how stressed out I am. I am shaking."
Some of Cindy's doubts were fueled by sister Kathy's negative opinion of the Apelts. But there were other disquieting signs.
One day, Cindy discovered she was missing more than $100 after the Apelts left her apartment. Suspicious, she and Annette phoned a Holiday Inn in Mesa, where the Apelts supposedly were staying. But the brothers weren't registered there. The women then called several hotels in the area, finally tracking Michael and Rudi to a Motel 6.
After dinner that night, Cindy and Annette dropped off the brothers at the Holiday Inn as usual, without mentioning their sleuthing. The women waited a spell, then drove to the Motel 6.
To their shock, a woman with a German accent answered the door at the Apelts' room. It was Anke Dorn, Michael's 26-year-old former girlfriend.
The next day, the brothers expressed outrage at the audacity of the nosy Americans. They claimed Anke was a family friend whose husband was in a Phoenix hospital.
The Apelts said they'd fibbed about their whereabouts on orders from their unspecified employers. The snooping had cost the men their "high-security" jobs and work visas, Michael and Rudi said.
Cindy Monkman had reached a crucial point on her path to destruction. Blinded by their affection for the Apelts, she and Annette failed to heed the alarms that should have gone off in their minds. Instead of walking away, the women caved in to the smooth-talking Teutons.
"What do you want us to do, marry you?" Annette Clay blurted, trying to make amends.
"Yes," the brothers replied.
Michael moved into Cindy's apartment on Alma School Road, and Rudi moved in with Annette. Things soured quickly between the latter couple, and Annette kicked him out after four days.
Michael Apelt told Cindy that his brother and Dorn had returned to Germany. He was alone now in the States, he repeated. All he had was her.
Actually, Rudi and Anke were living in a cheap motel a few miles away.
Michael was relentless in his quest to marry Cindy, who, caught in an emotional maelstrom, took the bait.
"I'm going to Lost Wages [Las Vegas] tomorrow to make the plunge," she wrote in a journal entry dated October 27, 1988. "I feel so happy and a little crazy about the situation. Am I doing the right thing?"
Cindy apparently didn't tell Kathy or anyone else about her plans. Michael had created unprecedented tension between the sisters.
"How many times can you tell your sister that something's wrong with the guy she's seeing?" asks Kathy Monkman-Nimon. "You don't want to lose her, so you rein yourself in. I thought the worst-case scenario was he'd dump her, break her heart and run. But I knew there was more to this guy's story."
Was there ever.
The short version: The Apelt brothers, Anke Dorn and Rudi's wife--yes, he was married--flew from Germany to Mexico City in August 1988. From there, they traveled to San Diego with about $10,000 between them.
The brothers started hitting San Diego's nightspots. Their mission was to seduce and then rip off American women.
At one watering hole on Labor Day, 1988, Michael and Rudi met two Phoenix women. The brothers claimed to be wind-surfboard manufacturers and Mercedes importers. Impressed, the women gave the men their phone numbers in Phoenix.
That chance meeting led the Apelts to Arizona, and a series of modestly clever scams that netted them some needed dollars. (One Valley woman gave Rudi Apelt $2,200, ostensibly for airfare to Germany, after he showed her a telegram indicating Michael had been killed in a car wreck. In a similar ruse, another woman received a telegram stating Rudi had been killed. The woman went to the Apelts' motel room to console Michael. The "late" Rudi answered the door. End of scam.)
Rudi Apelt's wife bailed out in September and returned home to Germany. The brothers and Dorn decided to make a go of it in Phoenix.
The trio was running low on money, but the Apelts stuck with their original plan.