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Accountant asked to die, partner says

March 06, 1997

By DAVID DISHNEAU

Associated Press Writer

FREDERICK, Md. - Accountant Mary Gaye Fister, deep in debt, tugged on a string tied to the trigger of a 12-gauge shotgun aimed at her head.

Nothing happened.

She tried again. And again.

Nothing.

That's when she delegated the job to her business associate.

``Let's do it! Let's do it!'' she said. ``Larry, for the first time in your life, do something right.''

``And before I knew, I had pulled the trigger,'' Lawrence H. Goldman recounted in court Wednesday as he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

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His plea bargain, under which he will get five years in prison, resolves the mystery of Fister's death but not a dispute over $1.65 million in life insurance benefits she had earmarked in her will for her creditors.

According to both the defense and the prosecution, Fister, 45, wanted to kill herself to solve her financial problems, but the policies wouldn't pay off if she took her own life. So she persuaded Goldman, 44, to help her by making her death look like murder.

Goldman was a beneficiary in some of Fister's life insurance policies, according to Assistant State's Attorney Dino Flores. He said he didn't know how much Goldman stood to gain from her death.

The shooting happened Sept. 11 on a dark country road about 20 miles from the home and office they shared in the Washington suburb of Derwood. She sat on the ground on the shoulder of the road. He stood next to her holding the cocked gun she had bought three days earlier. She pulled a string that was tied to the trigger and went around Goldman's right leg.

When the gun wouldn't fire, Fister badgered him into shooting her, Goldman told Circuit Judge Mary Ann Stepler.

Goldman was arrested two days later and charged with first-degree murder, which can carry the death penalty.

Goldman's lawyer, Franklin Stillrich, said he was planning an assisted-suicide defense but agreed to a plea bargain because ``you never know what's going to happen at a trial.''

Prosecutor Scott Rolle said the state's case was clouded by the fact that Maryland has no law against assisted suicide. ``Ultimately, it rests on us to not prosecute anyone for anything more than what they're actually guilty of, and that's what we did in this case,'' Rolle said.

Goldman's story was consistent with reports that Fister treated him like a servant. Fister, who had been married three times and was separated at the time of her death, also excelled at persuading friends and clients to lend her thousands of dollars to support her high-flying lifestyle.

Investigators said the dark-haired accountant enjoyed driving her red sports car to Atlantic City, N.J., casinos, where she sometimes lost as much as $30,000 per trip.

In the last weeks of her life, she told friends she had been targeted by the mob because of her gambling debts. In fact, she owed the IRS $30,000 and faced a client's lawsuit demanding $50,000.

Her will contained a plan to repay her friends with life insurance benefits. Her relatives are suing Allstate Life Insurance Co. to prevent the benefits from going to her creditors.

Allstate hasn't yet decided whether to pay any claims, spokesman Jim Dudas said.

``I don't know how we'd rule on assisted suicide,'' he said. ``This is the first case we've had like this.''

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