I-TEAM: Did man really try to throw wife off bridge?

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A couple sits down with Dan Noyes to tell their side of the story after people thought a man was trying to throw his wife off a Bay Area bridge.

The headlines a year ago screamed, "Man tries to throw wife off San Mateo Bridge," but were those headlines accurate? That man, a Marin County personal trainer, and his wife are still together, and they're talking to the ABC7 I-Team about the incident that stopped rush hour traffic and sent him to jail.

Preparing for this interview, the I-Team got exclusive access to the case file which included the crime scene photos, police interviews, and even a CHP dash-camera recording. They all help to paint a clear picture of what really happened that day.

Nadia and Xavier McClinton tell us this has been the worst year of their lives.

Their Honda SUV crashed on the San Mateo Bridge in December 2013. As traffic stopped, Xavier carried his unconscious wife to the edge of the bridge, but bystanders grabbed Nadia and Xavier fell into the water. The media ran with the prosecutor's statement that Xavier tried to kill his wife by throwing her off the bridge.

"I want people to know that I'm not a victim," Nadia told Noyes. "And that this man has never, ever, ever hurt me."

The McClintons want you to know the whole story.

Before the bridge incident, the couple faced intense pressure. They were running a business together called the "Body by X" gym in Corte Madera, trying to blend a family with children from two previous marriages and Nadia's mother living with them.

Xavier McClinton and his wife, Nadia, walk together holding hands. (Feb. 13, 2015/ABC7 News)

Xavier tells us he started losing sleep and feeling paranoid: "I thought Nadia was seeing someone. I thought my mother-in-law was trying to kill me. I thought she was poisoning my food because I didn't feel right. I felt very strange."

Xavier called police to their Mill Valley home twice, complaining that someone was trying to break in. Officers took him to Marin General for a psych evaluation; he got released.

The next day, Xavier wanted to skip a psychiatric appointment and go for a long drive. They headed south on 101, with Nadia at the wheel.

"He was really starting to get more paranoid," said Nadia.

Xavier: "It felt like people were looking at me, and then like they were talking on the phone."
Noyes: "They were reporting on you."
Xavier: "Yes, absolutely."

As they neared San Francisco's Marina District, Xavier grabbed the wheel to make a sharp turn, so Nadia pulled over and insisted that he drive. They continued south to Highway 92.

"As we got closer to that San Mateo Bridge, my heart rate just got higher and higher," said Nadia. "And it just built with his own fear."

Xavier added, "I looked at her and I realized that oh my God, I'm scaring her."

Nadia motioned to other cars for help. Drivers called 911.

Jason Bredbury told a 911 dispatcher, "It looked like there was a fight going on inside of the vehicle and they swerved all over the road."

Prosecutors would later claim Xavier tried to drive off the bridge. Nadia says that's not true. She told the I-Team, "I caused the car accident. I remember very clearly taking my right hand from the passenger side reaching across the steering wheel and purposely trying to get it to go into the guard rail so the car would stop."

Xavier over-corrected, crashing the SUV. The SUV bounced off the left guardrail and crossed five lanes, smacking into the right side. He pulled Nadia from the car, unconscious.

Xavier: "I was asking for help from people."
Noyes: "Were you actually saying, 'Help me?'"
Xavier: "Yes, but as they got close to me, they were making me paranoid because they were too close."

With Nadia in his arms, Xavier backed up to the guardrail. He accepted gauze from one driver to wipe blood from Nadia's lip, and borrowed a cellphone to call 911. Then, a truck driver rushed at Xavier.

"This guy starts coming towards me," said Xavier. "I went to put Nadia down, and as I went to put her down, I was really close to that barrier and it hit me in the back of the legs and I started to fall backwards."

Nadia and Xavier flipped over the guardrail, and the crowd caught them by the legs. Xavier's foot slipped out of his boot. He hung onto Nadia, and finally let go, falling 15 feet into the water.

Witness John Hicks later told police, "For a minute, he was holding onto her hands and then he like looked up and then he dropped into the water."

Many of the witnesses interviewed by police support Xavier's version of events.

Hicks added, "I never seen anything that would indicate that he was trying to hurt her."

But one day later, a detective informed Nadia, her husband would be charged with: attempted murder, domestic violence, mayhem, and kidnapping.

Nadia told police, "It's a little hard for me to understand. My husband is not violent, he's sick."

Xavier spent six months in jail before being released in a plea deal -- "guilty" of domestic violence. The other charges were dropped.

"That was such a hard thing for him to do, just take that plea," Nadia told Noyes. "Xavier has never ever once hurt me in our relationship. He's just a very big, gentle giant."

"Makes a great novel, makes a great story for somebody to write," counters San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. "It has nothing to do with the truth of what happened out there that day."

Wagstaffe tells Noyes there's no question Xavier was mentally-ill, but that he still knew what he was doing. Wagstaffe explained, "If it was just a psychotic break, then by that description -- and I understand trying to minimize your conduct -- but by that description, he didn't commit a crime and he shouldn't have pled guilty."

So many rumors still swirl around the couple, as they try to move forward with their business and their marriage. They wanted to do this interview to get it all behind them.

Xavier: "I've become a stronger man as a result."
Noyes: "And you're stronger as a couple?"
Xavier: "We're stronger as a couple without a doubt. Because of this, we will get through anything together now."

A psychiatrist has since concluded this was a one-time psychotic episode brought on by stress. Xavier had a tough time in jail, forced to take psych meds. He was in solitary most of the time and ballooned to 280 pounds. Being a personal trainer, he shed the weight in a few months. Check out the transformation below.

Xavier McClinton shows us his weight progress over a year. (Feb. 13, 2015/ABC7 News)

Related Topics:
familyI-Teamsan mateo countydomestic violencecar accidenttrafficrescuewater rescue911 callCorte MaderaSan Mateo-Hayward BridgeFoster City
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