Sunday, August 12, 2001

Murder-for-hire trial set to open

FBI says wife paid informant to kill husband

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ATHENS, Ohio — Elizabeth “Liz” Furnish has had some rocky relationships with men.

        But it's accusations made during her fourth marriage — to Charles “Shot” Furnish Jr., a Gallatin County retiree twice her age — that, if proven, could put the 40-year-old in prison for up to 10 years.

Mrs. Furnish
Mrs. Furnish
        The mother of three will stand trial on two counts of murder for hire beginning Monday at the Covington federal courthouse. The FBI said Mrs. Furnish agreed in January to pay an undercover agent $4,500 to kill Mr. Furnish — her husband of five months. She told acquaintances the 80-year-old retired union carpenter was worth $2 million. according to court records.

        Mrs. Furnish is being held without bond at the Kenton County jail.

        Although Mrs. Furnish declined several requests for interviews, an investigation of the Massachusetts native tells a story of a woman addicted to painkillers, one who endured a series of failed relationships with abusive men.

        Mrs. Furnish gave a descriptive history of her life in a deposition taken four years ago for a civil lawsuit filed in Athens. The bulk of this report is based on that deposition.

First love
Mrs. Furnish was born in Boston on July 28, 1961, as Elizabeth Walsh. She married after high school and attended a community college for two years. After graduating as a dental assistant, she worked for a dentist in Weymouth for a short time.

        “(I) gave up (dentistry) and went into modeling and cake decorating, and I stayed with that for quite a while,” Mrs. Furnish said. “This was in the '80s. Then I bartended once in a while.”

        Mrs. Furnish was 17 in 1978 when she married Gary MacDougall, her “childhood sweetheart,” in Weymouth, Mass.

        “The marriage was only a short marriage,” she said. It (had) problems.”

        Mr. MacDougall broke her nose, she said, and stabbed her in the stomach before they divorced in the early '80s.

        Mrs. Furnish said she had not talked with Mr. MacDougall, the father of her oldest child, in recent years. The last she heard he was working as a carpenter in Massachusetts.

Second try
        Her second marriage, to John Schatzl, in Quincy, Mass., also ended in divorce.

        “We were married in 1986, and after the first year, we didn't live together,” Mrs. Furnish said. The divorce was not final until after the couple had moved to Pompano Beach, Fla., in 1990.

        “I personally wasn't fond of Florida. I had a, at the time, one child. I moved there when he was 10. ... I was worried about drugs and things down in Florida, and schooling was not going well for him, and he was an intelligent boy and he began to fail.”
        Mrs. Furnish's third husband was Stephen Powell, a Floridian who boxed professionally under the name “Hammer.”

        Mr. Powell fought eight times professionally, losing every time. His 15 minutes of fame came in 1991 when he lost a fight to actor Mickey Rourke.

Move to Ohio
        The couple moved to Athens around 1994. Their only tie to Ohio was that Mr. Powell's best friend lived in Athens. Mrs. Furnish said she wanted to raise her family in the country and she “fell in love” with the college town.

        A failure as a boxer, Mr. Powell took a job as a taxi driver. His wife was a waitress eight months before taking a job at a local tavern.

        She had two children with Mr. Powell before he died in September 1996 while visiting his mother out of state.

        But she called his death a “relief.” Mrs. Furnish described her late husband as a heavy drinker and drug user who was “mentally abusive.”

Other troubles
        Mrs. Furnish said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder while living in Athens.

        “It was my first husband,” Mrs. Furnish said. “He was abusive and I never really saw anybody about that. “More mentally, actually. Not really physically.”

        She admitted to having a problem with prescription drugs. In 1997, she said she was taking Neurontin, Xanax and the powerful painkiller OxyContin.

        She said she was being treated for what reads like a list of disorders found in the index of a health book:

        • Chronic and severe pain.

        • Explosiveness.

        • Appetite disturbance.

        • Loss of interest in sex.

        • Feelings of vulnerability.

        • Panic attacks.

        • Thoughts of suicide.

        She was treated for withdrawal from OxyContin at the Kenton County jail this year while awaiting trial, according to her attorney, David Fessler of Covington.

        Part of Mrs. Furnish's defense in the murder-for-hire trial is expected to be that her judgment was clouded by the fact she was depressed and taking OxyContin with alcohol.

Short courtship
        When the woman from Boston arrived in rural Gallatin County in the summer of 2000, Mr. Furnish fell in love, by all accounts. The 80-year-old man married the woman half his age about three weeks after the couple met.

        Mr. Furnish and his previous wife, Mattie, were married for 52 years before she died about five years ago in Bowling Green, Ky. The couple moved to the quiet town near the Tennessee border when Mr. Furnish retired as a union carpenter in Detroit.

        Like Mrs. Furnish's previous marriages, things soon turned sour.

        In October 2000, Kentucky State Police responded to a domestic dispute at the home. According to a police report, Mrs. Furnish said her new husband tried to hit her one of her sons with an umbrella and a full soda can. On the same day, he allegedly attacked her two youngest sons with a broom.

        Mrs. Furnish has a 20-year-old son from her first marriage and two other sons under age 10. The two youngest are in the legal custody of a family in Northern Kentucky.

        In the following months, Mrs. Furnish told an FBI informant that she wanted to get rid of her husband, court records allege.

        Her motive, according to the FBI, was money. Mrs. Furnish told the informant she was afraid of being “cut out of the will.”

        She said she knew “unsavory characters” in the Boston area who could make her husband's death seem accidental, court records say. She said that she and Mr. Furnish would travel to the Virgin Islands, where her contracts would kill Mr. Furnish. That is when the FBI intervened. Mrs. Furnish met an undercover agent at the nearby Beltera Resort & Casino in January just days before the couple was scheduled to leave for the Virgin Islands.

        The FBI said Mrs. Furnish gave the undercover agent $500 to kill her husband with the promise of $4,000 more after he was dead. She was arrested the next day, Jan. 9.

        Mr. Furnish has declined to talk about his wife.

       What's next

        Elizabeth Furnish's trial on two counts of murder for hire beginsMonday at U.S. District Court in Covington. The trial is expected tolast a week.


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