She cut herself. She attempted suicide. She moved far away from Palm Beach County, hoping distance would help heal her crushing pain.
But, while Dainya Nida has worked to build a meaningful life in the years since her much younger self was duped into performing sexual favors for Jeffrey Epstein, the 32-year-old Wellington woman said she needs answers before she can put the horror behind her.
“I want to know why,” Nida said, ticking off the long list of police, prosecutors, judges, jailers and others who she says conspired to keep her and dozens of other young women from getting justice.
Her new mission has spurred her to step out of the shadows where she has spent years trying to keep her name out of the hands of reporters tasked with covering all things Epstein.
In her quest for answers, Nida is pushing Palm Beach County Chief Judge Krista Marx to reconsider her decision this month to refuse to release records that could explain why Epstein wasn’t punished severely for abusing Nida and other teens at his Palm Beach mansion.
Told it was improper protocol for Marx to talk privately with her because the court fight isn’t over, Nida isn’t giving up.
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“Improper protocol?” she said, her calm voice rising slightly. Given the extraordinarily lenient treatment the suspected child trafficker received for nearly two decades, Nida said she can’t believe anyone would raise the prospect of proper protocol.
While Marx is prohibited by judicial ethics from having private conversations about pending cases, Nida said the talk doesn’t have to be behind closed doors.
“We can do it in a courtroom,” she said. “That’s how it should have been done in 2008 when he was first convicted.”
Instead, in what U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled was a violation of the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, neither Nida nor any of Epstein’s victims were told of the secret deal that was crafted by then Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer and South Florida U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta.
When Epstein pleaded guilty in June 2008, none of Epstein’s victims was given the opportunity to come to court to weigh in on the appropriateness of charging the politically connected financier with two counts of solicitation of prostitution (in one case soliciting a minor) for sexually assaulting teens when some were as young as 14.
None was asked whether a roughly year-long jail stay was sufficient punishment for hurting them in ways that would scar them for life.
They didn’t know that once he pleaded guilty to the state charges, federal prosecutors would shelve a 53-page indictment they had prepared against him.
Nida remembers her confusion when she received a letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafana, telling her that Epstein had pleaded guilty. The form letter was labeled “confidential” and victims were barred from disclosing it.
“How did he get charged with something but yet I didn’t know he was going to be,” she remembers thinking. “They didn’t even involve us in any of it.”
Now, she says, after years of therapy, soul-searching and second-guessing, she wants to – she needs to – be involved.
The documents Marx refused to unseal – transcripts from a 2006 grand jury proceeding – could explain why Krischer, and ultimately federal prosecutors, didn’t vigorously prosecute Epstein as a serial child molester.
The request Marx rejected came from a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate the county’s handling of Epstein. Marx told Treasure Coast State Attorney Bruce Colton that she needed specific evidence of wrongdoing before agreeing to release the records that, by law, are secret.
She suggested agents for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement talk to Epstein’s victims to find out if Krischer intentionally excluded some from the witness list.
In an order signed on Jan. 14, Marx told Colton he could renew his request if he got specific information that would establish that “the release of grand jury records in this case are actually necessary to further justice.”
She said she couldn’t take the unusual step of unsealing the documents without concrete evidence of wrongdoing. Speculation, she said, isn’t sufficient.
Given that dozens of teens went to police and the FBI to report they had been sexually assaulted, Nida questioned Marx’s reasoning.
“I’m like how many victims do you really need to talk to to release the documents?” she said.
That the 66-year-old Epstein hanged himself in a Manhattan jail cell in August while awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges only makes Marx’s decision more perplexing, she said.
“You’re not going to ruin his reputation anymore. It’s already ruined,” she said.
“Even if you don’t want to unseal them to the world, which I don’t know why we can’t, if you know I’m a victim, why can’t I see the documents now? What’s in there that still has to be such a secret?”
Lured by promises of fulfilling a dream
Like most of Epstein’s victims, Nida was introduced to the jet-setting millionaire by a friend who asked her if she wanted to earn extra cash by giving massages to a rich guy in Palm Beach.
It was June 2003. She was a 16-year-old student at John I. Leonard High School.
“She was like you know, ‘You might have to take your top off, you might not,’ it was all very vague and so I went and I was like this isn’t terrible,” she said.
Epstein made her feel comfortable even as he convinced her to take off her clothes and molested her. Contrary to claims Epstein would later make that he didn’t know the age of his victims, Nida said she told him she was under the age of 18 and he would often ask her about school.
She later told Palm Beach police he tried to persuade her to have sex, but she refused. “He kind of knew how not to push you too far so you would keep coming,” she said.
She was working part time at Nordstrom’s and came from a well-off, loving family. She didn’t really need the $200 per visit Epstein paid her. Instead, it was something else Epstein offered that prompted her to return.
Tall, thin, with blonde hair and green eyes, Nida dreamed about working as a model. Epstein assured her he could make it happen.
“I used to tell my parents I don’t need your money,” she said. “I’m fine because in my head he had put this whole image of this perfect life. I was going to be living in a penthouse in either New York or Paris. I was going to get my dream of becoming a model and he was going to help me get there.”
She was also convinced that Epstein was capable of making good on his promises. She saw photos of models hanging on the walls of his waterfront mansion on El Brillo Way. She looked at how his assistants, Sarah Kellen, Nadia Marcinkova and Adriana Ross, were living.
Sarah, for instance, was blonde, pretty and about her age. “In a way I was like ‘I would like to have her lifestyle,’” Nida said. “She gets to drive all these nice cars, she gets to live in mansions in Palm Beach and New York. What girl wouldn’t want that life?”
“That’s – quote/unquote – the American dream, sadly,” she continued. “That’s what it is.”
It was only after she stopped going to his house that the memories of what she had done began ripping her apart. In 2006, days after the grand jury returned the indictment against Epstein on a charge of soliciting a prostitute, she went to Palm Beach police to tell her story.
But, while records show police contacted dozens of other teens, who gave the same descriptions of Epstein’s house and told nearly identical stories of their abuse, Nida said she was never asked to testify. She was never interviewed by Krischer’s office.
By then, an angry Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter had taken his agency’s investigation to the FBI.
While FBI Special Agent E. Nesbitt Kuyrkendall swore in federal court records that “no victims expressed a strong opinion that Epstein be prosecuted,” police records show Nida and other young women said they wanted just that.
Nida said neither FBI agents nor federal prosecutors seemed interested in her plight. The agents would come to where she was working to question her, causing her further trauma. Prosecutors failed to tell her what was happening.
Investigators working for Epstein, she suspects, talked to her friends, her current and former employers – “anything to try and get dirt on me.”
They visited her house, forcing her to tell her parents about her secret life. While her parents were supportive, it was traumatic for all of them. Her father, she learned, was a couple of months younger than Epstein.
She remembers receiving a letter from Villafana long after the nonprosecution agreement was signed and two months after Epstein pleaded guilty in June 2008.
In the letter, Villafana said previous information she had sent victims was “inaccurate.” It doesn’t detail what information was wrong, but Nida suspects it was the nature of the charges filed against Epstein.
“How do you send me the wrong information when you know what he got charged with,” Nida bristled.
But the most crushing blow came when she saw the charges: prostitution. At Villafana’s insistence, Krischer agreed to add a charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution so Epstein would have to register as a sex offender.
“I was like where did prostitution come from?” Nida said she asked herself.
“The labeling – you’re all lower class, you’re all druggies, you all come from terrible families – none of what they said should have been a label for me,” she said. “I think that’s why for the longest time I never wanted to be out there because I didn’t want that label.”
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By then, however, Nida was just trying to survive.
On the advice of her mother, she sought the counseling she desperately needed and after two years she no longer wanted to kill herself.
But, after graduating from Palm Beach State College with a degree in human services, she didn’t want to live in Florida any longer.
Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2011, she bought a one-way ticket to New York, got a job teaching school in New Jersey and tried to forget her past.
When she returned to Palm Beach County seven years later, she decided to get a second bachelor’s degree in supervision and management from PBSC. She was working and going to school when she received a call from her sister in May 2019.
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Her sister said she had some disturbing news she was reluctant to share. “I don’t want this to ruin all the progress that you’ve made and I’m scared because I don’t want you to go backwards,” Nida recalls her sister saying.
Eventually, her sister told Nida that FBI agents had visited her house. They wanted to talk.
While Nida agreed to meet them, she was still bitter from her previous experience when FBI agents in West Palm Beach interviewed her, created chaos in her life and did nothing.
“What is this going to do besides hopefully not mess up my life again because you’re bringing back a lot of emotion, triggers and all that,” she said.
But, she said, the attitude of the FBI agents from New York was different. “They genuinely wanted to help the victims have some peace of mind,” she said. “They made it clear that they were going to catch him and they were going to do whatever it took.”
So, she gave them documents – a journal, an agenda from high school where she penciled in dates of her meetings with Epstein and bank statements that showed when she deposited the cash he gave her.
Shortly before they arrested Epstein when his private jet landed at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport as he returned from his home in Paris, they called her to tell her he would be in custody soon.
“It was the best feeling,” she said. “It actually meant something that they cared enough to call me.”
The ‘most mentally disturbed human being in this world’
When Epstein killed himself, she said she wasn’t surprised. “Once I knew he didn’t get bail, I knew it was only a matter of time,” she said.
Like others, she questions the circumstances. Having attempted suicide two weeks before, why wasn’t he on suicide watch? Why was he allowed to have multiple sheets in his cell? Why was video from his first suicide attempt deleted?
But, she doubts theories that a powerful man or men, with ugly secrets, paid to have Epstein killed to silence him. “Even though he’s dead, there’s so many people who were always around him,” she said. “There’s so many other people who could say what happened.”
Epstein, she said, simply couldn’t accept his fate.
“I think his mind tortured him while he was in there,” she said. “I don’t think he felt guilty for what he did. It was his ego.”
Epstein thought of himself as untouchable. “I’m Jeffrey Epstein. I have billions of dollars and I’m smart. I’m a genius. I’m a genius who got away with all this for over 20 years,” she said of the thoughts she believes led him to suicide. “I can pay people off and I can get out. I’m not supposed to be here.”
After Epstein’s death, she joined dozens of other victims, who accepted U.S. District Judge Richard Berman’s invitation to tell their stories in open court in New York.
Sobbing as she read her statement, she called Epstein the most “mentally disturbed human being in this world.”
“If anyone only learns one thing from this case, I hope it is that money should not let you pay your way free!” she said, through tears. “A crime is a crime and a victim is a victim!”
Speaking out to lift officials’ silence
Even then, standing with other victims, she said she didn’t want her name to be used. At the hearing, she identified herself as Jane Doe 5.
But, when she heard that Marx was continuing what she believes is a conspiracy of silence that has prevented her and other victims from learning the truth, she decided to shed her anonymity and speak out.
The documents from the grand jury could be just the beginning. She wants to know why Sheriff Ric Bradshaw allowed Epstein to leave the jail on work release, a decision that is now being reviewed by the DeSantis-ordered investigation.
She wants to know why law enforcement in the Virgin Islands and New Mexico, where Epstein owned homes, didn’t act. They are now conducting investigations and issuing statements but, Nida asks, why didn’t they do it years ago when they could have spared hundreds of teens from sexual abuse?
“Like everyone’s trying to retrace their steps, but if you would unseal the documents … I just want to know why,” she said. “Why can’t I see what’s in them?”
The Palm Beach Post has also filed suit, seeking to unseal the grand jury records. A hearing on its request hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Nida said she still occasionally hears from the FBI. She went to a briefing in Miami after Epstein’s death where agents explained in vague terms the status of the ongoing investigation.
Nida said she didn’t know Epstein’s longtime girlfriend, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been accused of recruiting and grooming teens for Epstein’s pleasure. She doesn’t know whether she and Epstein’s other assistants should be prosecuted.
“They have a story, too. It’s like how did you get to where you were?” she said.
Rather than focus on the ongoing investigation, Nida is trying to finish her latest degree so she can move out of Florida — a state she loved but where, she believes, authorities were complicit in her abuse.
She dreams of one day using her horrific experiences, her love of teaching and her education in social work to help child sex abuse victims.
“It’s taken a long time to come forward,” she said. “People need to know they are in a comfortable setting, that they are safe and protected and nothing is going to happen to them. I would like to be able to somehow, some way create that for people.”
She knows she will never stop struggling with the demons Epstein planted in her memory. But, with the help of her therapist, she has grown stronger.
“I won’t let Jeffrey take my life away again,” she said. “He’s robbed me of many years. I won’t let it happen.”