In a first-floor room at the Economy Inn in Morgan Hill, the clothed body of porn director Inkyo Volt Hwang, 38, lay face down, half off and half on the bed, an empty box of Milk Duds near his head.

Hwang''''s body was found Sept. 29 a few feet from a shrine he constructed to his recently deceased wife, porn starlet Haley Paige, 25. Near two glass candles, he taped three computer-generated photos of Paige smiling and another of her casket. In a spiral notebook, he described how hard it was for him to deal with her death, a death in which police said he was implicated.

Early this month, the verdict on Hwang''''s demise became public. It was no big surprise. The Santa Clara County coroner''''s office said the Canoga Park man had committed suicide by an overdose of methadone pills.

Another sordid death in a sordid world? Maybe. As I pulled back the strands of this story, however, I encountered things I did not expect: a father''''s grief, a daughter''''s yearning, an unpopular man''''s penance and even male chauvinists'''' compassion.

This much seems clear: Hwang and Paige were hellbent for destruction in a life that mixed porn, drugs and violence in a lethal cocktail.

Hwang, sometimes known as "Chico Wanker Wang," was a UCLA honors graduate, an erratic ex-con who swore he never could tell his Korean-born parents what he did. "This was a very dark, dangerous fellow," said Luke Ford, a freelance writer who knew him. "He would talk about killing himself or other people with a disturbing ease that wasn''''t just humor."

Sweet and sad

Paige, whose real name was Maryam Haley, came across as sweet and sad, a Woody Guthrie fan plunged into a world that mocked melody. Born of mixed Mexican and Welsh descent, she grew up in San Diego and worked odd jobs - a Blockbuster clerk, an aide to the Green Party - before drifting into the porn industry. She said she needed money for rent.

In online interviews, Paige talked of wanting to travel and study psychology, maybe even having a family someday. When an interviewer asked if she had a motto, she said, "Even a horse that''''s waiting to be glue needs a little sugar, too."

"She was probably looking for someone to take charge of her life," said Ford, who once had a Web site that covered the adult film industry. "There''''s a pretty common dynamic of women in this industry choosing boyfriends who abuse them."

Three months before his death, Hwang was arrested by Los Angeles police on suspicion of pistol-whipping Paige - then released for lack of evidence. It was disturbingly similar to the charges of kidnapping and beating an ex-girlfriend that had sent him to prison in the late 1990s.

The Paige-Hwang marriage lasted scarcely longer than the time it would take to play Paige''''s 300 porn DVDs end to end. After a wedding Aug. 2 at A Garden of Love in Las Vegas, the two were husband and wife less than three weeks before Paige died in King City, apparently of a drug overdose at a motel room. According to online accounts, the coroner found minute traces of methadone in her body.

Interviewed by police about her death but eventually released, Hwang took a bus to Morgan Hill, where he checked into the Economy Inn.

It might merely have been fodder for a police blotter - or an adult-only publication - except for an extraordinary online thread. I should warn you that it includes less than savory images and language. If you still want to read it, you can Google the words, "Haley Paige NSFW" and follow the link to her father''''s comments.

Online thread

The thread started in 2006 - more than a year before the deaths - with a picture of a semi-clad Paige signing a bawdy calendar. Then, in the vicious style of the Web, anonymous posters critiqued Paige''''s body, prompting an angry answer from someone who seemed to be Paige herself.

When Paige''''s father, Ken Haley, joined the thread in September and announced that his daughter had died, the tone changed.

Posting pictures of her funeral, Haley explained that he had not been aware until recently what Paige had been doing. He and his wife were divorced, and the last time he had seen his daughter was in 2006. Haley downplayed a story - which he said was pushed by Chico Wang - that Paige was molested as a child by her uncle.

Suddenly, strangely, he began getting condolences from Paige''''s fans. "She really brought home the fact that she and the other girls are humans and deserve so much better," wrote one, adding: "I''''m incredibly sorry for your loss.

Haley, 61, of Eugene, Ore., responded with painful honesty, voicing a regret that any of us who are parents might understand.

"She made choices that she was responsible for, yet she had few safety nets to keep her from falling into oblivion," he wrote. "I feel remorse for not rescuing my daughter. Hindsight lays our hearts out to dry. We cannot escape opportunities lost."