When supermodel Beverly Peele’s son Trey Peele was 11, his mother told him something shocking about his father.
The sexual encounter she had had a decade prior with fashion mogul Peter Nygard that led to his birth was not consensual, she said. Nygard had raped her, according to Beverly Peele.
It was a secret she had kept from almost everyone else. In 2020, as other allegations of sexual misconduct mounted against Nygard, Trey Peele urged her to go public with it.
“I was like, ‘Mom, we need to speak up about it,’” Trey Peele, now 18, told “Dateline NBC” in an exclusive interview.
“I think I’m OK with it as long as you’re OK with it,” he said to her. “‘And we could just go through this together.’”
Nygard has been charged in a nine-count federal indictment and faces lawsuits filed by dozens of women and girls who accuse him of sex trafficking and sexual assault spanning several decades. He has denied any wrongdoing.
In a “Dateline NBC” special, his accusers allege they were drugged and assaulted by Nygard, his employees say they were silenced when they tried to speak out about what was happening, and another son expresses the relief he feels now that his father is facing justice.
Many of Nygard’s alleged assaults took place at Nygard Cay, his estate in the Bahamas.
Nygard threw what he called “pamper parties” at the sprawling beach property, said former employees. These were gatherings for aspiring models to relax and mingle; Beverly Peele, who was the face of his fashion line, said Nygard liked having her there.
She said she didn’t like the parties, certain they were just a way for him to find women to sleep with.
What she didn’t know was that women at the parties were allegedly attacked like she had been. Shortly after she signed her modeling contract, she says, Nygard followed her into the bathroom at his California beach house and raped her.
Once inside the parties, Nygard would have “somebody targeted,” said attorney Greg Gutzler, who is representing dozens of accusers in a class action lawsuit against Nygard.
“He would order up what he called the ‘happy juice’” with his bartender, Gutzler said. “He had somebody targeted, he knew exactly what he wanted, so he would have them make the ‘happy juice,’ which was the date-rape drug.”
‘All of a sudden, I just wasn’t functional anymore’
Such claims were not limited to the parties he threw.
Maridel Carbuccia was Nygard’s treasurer and says a few months into working for him, he offered her something to drink. After a couple sips, her vision became fuzzy and she couldn’t feel her hands, she said.
“All of a sudden, I just wasn’t functional anymore,” she said. “I couldn’t get up. He was just on top of me. And I kept trying to push away. I was like, ‘Peter, get off me. What are you doing?’”
Dana Neal, a former recruitment and retention manager, was among Nygard’s employees who quit and then tried to speak out about what he saw, talking to reporters about the fashion executive. When he did, Nygard sued him for breaching his employment agreement.
The alleged attacks expanded beyond employees and aspiring models and left deep emotional scars. Jenny Gilmer was a 19-year-old tourist in the Bahamas in 1998 when she was invited to play tennis on Nygard’s estate. He extended an invitation for her to stay at the property. While having drinks with other guests, she started to feel dizzy and weak. She says Nygard assaulted her again and again.
“It altered my decision-making through life — relationships, depression,” she said.
During one of the assaults, Gilmer said, Nygard’s son Kai, a teenager at the time, was knocking on the door, looking for his father. Gilmer said she kept silent, more concerned about him than herself.
“For him to find out what kind of person his dad really is?” she said. “I felt way worse for him than I did for me at that moment.”
Kai — who has legally changed his last name from Nygard to separate himself from his father and now uses Bickle, a name that honors his mother’s family — is part of the efforts to investigate Nygard.
“It’s quite a whirlwind from, in your mind, believing that Peter Nygard, my father, was this flamboyant entrepreneur, hardworking businessman,” he said, “and then to find out that behind the scenes, he’s actually a monster.”
Accusers, empowered by the #MeToo movement, filed lawsuits against Nygard, including Carbuccia in January 2020 and then Gutzler’s class action lawsuit, which Beverly Peele joined. Along the way, Bickle has helped Gutzler gather evidence against his father.
Nygard was arrested in December 2020 in Winnipeg, Canada. The day after being charged in a federal indictment in the United States, he agreed to be extradited to the U.S.
He was also charged with sexual assault in Canada.
While it has taken years for the stories about Nygard’s actions to come to light, Bickle is confident that he will now face justice.
“That’s a big weight off my shoulders,” he said. “He’s not going to be able to hurt anybody else.”
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