Charmaine Whalen called police when her husband, who said his job kept him on the road, disappeared for longer than usual.

She wasn't the only wife looking for him.Officers who went to Vernon Pierce's townhouse in this Phoenix suburb found a second wife knocking on his door. Then they found a third wife and a fourth and a list of "Who to Marry" with two more potential brides on it.

Pierce, who police had been looking for since September, was charged with bigamy after unexpectedly turning himself in Tuesday. He faces up to four years in prison and a $300,000 fine.

The handsome 33-year-old said he surrendered so he could start a new life - and that other men shouldn't envy his escapades.

"I've wasted five years of my life with this," he said Wednesday, free on $1,500 bail. "That kind of life is not what it may seem to be."

He said things got so complicated he had to keep notes of what he had told which wife. He carried a little black book in his wallet.

Pierce said he fantasized about having many wives but didn't offer a more detailed explanation of why he was simultaneously married to four women in Arizona, California and Nevada.

That was the main question for wife No. 1, LaDranda Pierce of Phoenix. "Why, why? I really want to know why," she said Wednesday, wiping away a tear.

The 33-year-old legal secretary married Pierce in Los Angeles in August 1989. They separated in 1991 - she wouldn't say why - and are getting divorced. They have a 4-year-old son, Jared.

"Vernon has always been a really nice person," she said. "But he does know how to manipulate people."

Pierce, who says he used to be a model, set out on his wedding spree earlier this year. Police say he married Whalen, 23, of Palm-dale, Calif., on April 29; 21-year-old Jamillah Thompson of Phoenix on May 11; and 27-year-old LeMitri Reed of Las Vegas on June 5.

Pierce said he spread his time between the three women, telling them he was a salesman, model or engineer - jobs that kept him traveling.

The truth, he said, was altogether different: "I didn't have a job. I didn't have time." He lived off his wives and other women he was dating.

Pierce said that once he gets his troubles behind him, he wants to start over - with Reed, his newest wife.

"She's the one who's really standing by me," he said.