Friday, January 12, 2001

Murder-for-hire alleged

Plot detailed in federal court hearing

By Jim Hannah and Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An 80-year-old man at the center of his new wife's alleged murder-for-hire plot was too rattled to answer his door Thursday or attend a federal court proceeding where his pregnant wife appeared in shackles.

        “He's pretty shaken up,” said FBI Special Agent Doug Warner, who testified against Elizabeth Furnish, 39, of Gallatin County, at a preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in Covington.

Mrs. Furnish
Mrs. Furnish
        “I did say that she would kill him before it was over with,” said Christine Gordy, 63, of Sparta, the sister of Charles F. Furnish Jr.

        Mrs. Furnish, born Elizabeth Walsh and originally from the Boston area, was disabled with a back injury and had at least two previous marriages before she tied the knot in August with Mr. Furnish, who is known as “Shot.”

        She often bowed her head as Agent Warner painted a picture Thursday of a woman who hated her new husband, wanted him dead to get a share of his wealth, and put $500 down to get the job done.

        The total job was to cost $4,500, FBI documents show, and the “hit man” was also to shoot Mrs. Furnish in the arm to make it look like a robbery.

[photo] Elizabeth and Charles “Shot” Furnish lived in this home on Johnson Hill Road in Gallatin County.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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        According to Agent Warner, Mrs. Furnish told an informant that “her husband was worth $2 million, she was six weeks pregnant with the baby of another individual, (and) that once Mr. Furnish found out the baby was not his, she would be cut out of the will.”

        Mr. Furnish, a retired union carpenter, met Eliza beth Furnish through family members. She was a friend of a brother's stepdaughter. They were engaged a week after they met, Mrs. Gordy said.

        Despite Mrs. Furnish's boasts to others, Mrs. Gordy said, Mr. Furnish does not have a net worth near $1 million.

        “He doesn't have that kind of money. He had a little nest egg, but not anymore, not after her.”

        Agent Warner testified, “She had a hatred for Mr. Furnish.

        “She did not intend to leave the marriage without anything. She was (considered) an interloper who had no love for him,” he said.

        Mrs. Furnish allegedly told this same informant that she once robbed banks in the Boston area and knew people from there who could kill Mr. Furnish while the couple vacationed in the Virgin Islands.

        The couple was to leave today for that vacation. But Agent Warner said Mrs. Furnish traveled to Belterra Resort & Casino in Vevay, Ind., on Monday to meet an undercover police officer posing as a hit man.

[photo] Brian Collins, 24, lives next door to the Furnish home and was a guest at their wedding.
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        The informant, originally a friend of Mr. Furnish, helped set up the meeting where Mrs. Furnish allegedly provided a down payment to have her husband killed and, on Tuesday morning, showed the undercover agent her home in Sparta — a newly remodeled farmhouse painted yellow, with Christmas lights still hanging from its eaves. She showed him a side door that he could enter to do the killing that evening, Mr. Warner said.

        She was arrested within minutes. Her husband, so youthful even at 80 that he rode a maroon Honda Gold Wing motorcycle with a sidecar, was inside.

        He did not appear at the hearing and would not answer his door on Thursday.

        “No one wants to talk. You have to understand. The old man just can't,” said a man responding to the knock at Mr. Furnish's home.

Sister wasn't won over
        Mrs. Gordy was taking care of her brother before he married. He is called “Shot” because one of his younger brothers began calling him “Shotgun.”

        Mrs. Gordy said that Mrs. Furnish has now spent most of her brother's money, but she could not tell what it was spent on.

        Mrs. Gordy called Mrs. Furnish a “con artist,” saying that she was taking all the mail and not paying the bills. The electricity to the home was turned off Wednesday, Mrs. Gordy said.

Evidence sufficient
        At Thursday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Wehrman said the government had enough evidence against Mrs. Furnish and ordered her to remain in the Kenton County Jail. A grand jury will decide whether to indict her on the murder-for-hire charge in February.

        She will face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

        Mrs. Furnish's attorney, David Fessler, said the allegations against his client are flimsy.

        He said that she was drinking heavily and using painkillers that were not prescribed to her in the weeks before her arrest. Talk of past bank robberies was false and there is no evidence that she actually had contacted anyone in Boston, he said.

        He confirmed that Mrs. Furnish is several weeks pregnant, but said that Mrs. Furnish has said her husband is the father and has never mentioned having an affair.

        Mrs. Furnish's name was not on a will or life insurance claim and she may have been thinking about getting a divorce when she asserted that she wanted a share of Mr. Furnish's wealth, he said.

Domestic violence petition
        She filed a petition of domestic violence against Mr. Furnish in October. According to the document, Mr. Furnish tried to hit her son from a previous marriage with an umbrella and full soda can.

        On that same day, he allegedly attacked the boy and his brother with a broom. He then hit Mrs. Furnish with the broom before shoving her out of the way, according to the document.

        Mrs. Gordy said she did not believe that her brother was abusing the children.

        “There are a lot of things people say when they're desperate and drunk,” Mr. Fessler said. “There are so many easier ways of killing (a person). If you're going to kill someone, why tell so many people?”

        Mrs. Furnish has three children. One son, 20, lives in Athens, Ohio. Her other children are 7 and 5 years old. They are staying with a Verona couple.

Neighbors surprised
        Meanwhile, Mr. Furnish's neighbors are having a tough time dealing with the allegations, which they say are surprising.

        Brian Collins, 24, attended the Furnish wedding and has known Mr. Furnish for two years. When he met Mr. Furnish's then-girlfriend and found out she was half his age, Mr. Collins said, he thought she must be after money.

        That changed, Mr. Collins said, when he saw the two together. “Despite the age difference, I thought she loved him.” He said the couple showed affection to each other and went out together a lot.

        Mrs. Gordy said the couple did not, in fact, go out much, but they did go to Belterra Resort in December to celebrate Mr. Furnish's birthday.

        Mr. Collins described Mrs. Furnish as a nice woman who always called him “sweetheart” and “honey.”

        “He's a hell of a nice guy,” Mr. Collins said. “You couldn't meet a nicer guy. I couldn't imagine someone trying to do this to him.”

        Mrs. Gordy said she had to tell her brother about the alleged murder plot and said that he is in good spirits, considering all that has happened. Mrs. Gordy did not say whether her brother had filed for divorce from Elizabeth Furnish.

        “He wasn't a millionaire. He was just a plain-old, retired ordinary man.”

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