Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Plea deal reached in murder plot

Sparta woman attempted to have husband killed

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Hours before Elizabeth “Liz” Furnish was scheduled to stand trial on murder-for-hire charges, the Gallatin County woman reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

        Mrs. Furnish, 40, pleaded guilty Monday morning before U.S. District Judge Jennifer D. Coffman to one count of murder for hire in a plot against her 80-year-old husband.

        A second count was dropped. The Massachusetts native faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

        Mrs. Furnish agreed in January to pay an undercover agent $4,500 to kill Charles “Shot” Furnish of Sparta, her husband of five months, according to court documents.

        She told acquaintances the retired union carpenter was worth more than $1 million, authorities said.

        U.S. Attorney Frances Catron said pleading guilty before trial could get a defendant a more lenient sentence from a judge. She said the plea will allow Mrs. Furnish's attorney to argue that she has taken responsibility for her crime.

        The attorney, David F. Fessler of Covington, said he thinks the most his client will get is five years. He plans to argue that Mrs. Furnish's dependency on drugs and alcohol impaired her judgment.

        Mrs. Furnish became addicted to prescription drugs — including OxyContin — after injuring her back several years ago, Mr. Fessler said.

        “The amount and types of drugs this woman was taking was staggering,” Mr. Fessler said, “and her choice of alcohol was tequila.”

        Mrs. Furnish showed no emotion in court Monday. Her husband was not present.

        A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 6 at the Federal Courthouse in Covington.

        The plea agreement contained details of the case that previously were not released by the FBI. The following is an account taken from court records:

        Mr. Furnish was visiting family in Athens, Ohio, in

        July 2000 when he met his future wife. The two married the following month and Mrs. Furnish moved into Mr. Furnish's home in Sparta, where Mr. Furnish's brother also lived.

        After the marriage, Mrs. Furnish began spending a great deal of Mr. Furnish's money. From August 2000 through Jan. 9, Mrs. Furnish spent about $100,000. Court records didn't say what she did with the money.

        In early December, Mrs. Furnish began talking to acquaintances about taking Mr. Furnish on a vacation to the Caribbean and calling some thugs from Boston to travel to the islands to kill him. The following month, Mrs. Fur nish booked a Caribbean trip through a Florence travel agency.

        That's when an acquaintance of Mrs. Furnish went to the FBI. The woman, whose identity has remained secret, agreed to wear a wire.

        The FBI informant then introduced Mrs. Furnish to a hit man who was really an undercover agent. The two met in hotel room 605 at the nearby Belterra Resort & Casino in Vevay, Ind. During that meeting, she offered the agent the money to kill her husband, and said her husband's brother might “have to be taken care of also.”

        The next day, she showed the undercover agent the best way to break into Mr. Furnish's home, while another agent listened and watched from a car.

        Mr. Furnish couldn't be reached for comment Monday. His sister, Christine Gordy of Sparta, said her brother was probably out on his maroon Honda Goldwing motorcycle.

        “I hope she (Mrs. Furnish) gets the maximum,” said Mrs. Gordy during her lunch break at a Warsaw drugstore. “She has put us through a lot of worrying, and a lot of embarrassment.”

        Mr. Furnish, who moved back to his hometown after his first wife of 52 years died, learned last week that a plea agreement had been reached.

        His sister said they celebrated by having dinner at Old Country Buffet in Florence on Saturday.


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