THE DOORBELL RANG JUST AFTER 11 A.M. on Tuesday, May 19. Standing on the front porch of Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s modern waterfront home in Massapequa, N.Y., was an attractive teenage girl. She said she wanted to talk about Buttafuoco’s husband, Joey, 38. “It’s not every day that I confront a wife,” the girl said. “But your husband is having an affair with my 16-year-old sister.”
Mary Jo, 37, kept her cool. “Really?” she said.
The girl went on. “I think the idea of a 40-year-old man sleeping with a 16-year-old is disgusting,” she said. Mary Jo maintained her composure, she told a newspaper later. The wife simply smiled and said, “He’s not 40 yet.”
As the two leaned on opposite railings of the Buttafuoco front porch on Long Island’s South Shore, the teen held up an extra-large T-shirt from Joey Buttafuoco’s auto-body repair shop. “He gave my sister this T-shirt,” she said. “I found it on her bed.”
“Joey gives these shirts out to a lot of people,” Mary Jo replied. With that, she stood up. “I’m going to go in and call Joey now,” she said. “Thanks for coming by to see me.”
But Mary Jo didn’t make it through the front door. The teenager allegedly pulled out a loaded .25-caliber Titan semiautomatic pistol and fired one shot. Mary Jo fell, alive but severely injured. The bullet severed the carotid artery in her neck, shattered the base of her skull and ripped her right eardrum. The girl ran to a waiting Thunderbird, and the driver sped off.
The incident didn’t make the news for four days and even then received only scant attention. But slowly, over the next few weeks, the shooting of Mary Jo Buttafuoco ignited the media, tantalized the entire metropolitan area with daily revelations and brought Hollywood running, checkbook in hand.
Neighbors heard the shot, and within an hour Mary Jo Buttafuoco was being rushed to the Nassau County Medical Center by helicopter. The motive for the attack was as mysterious as the identity of the would-be killer. Hut when Mary Jo awakened the next day, after eight hours of surgery, she was able to give police a description of her assailant: a petite young girl, with long auburn hair tinted with violet. At that point, police say, her husband broke down and confessed that he knew who had shot his wife. The girl, Joey said, was Amy Fisher, a 17-year-old high school senior. And though he now denies it, police insist he told them that he had been having an affair with the teenager for more than a year.
Amy was picked up the next evening as she left her home in nearby Merrick. She was questioned all night and gave police a 10-page statement in which she confessed to shooting Marx Jo. insisting it was an accident. “I felt she was dismissing me and didn’t care about what I was saying. Fisher wrote. “I saw her turn to go back in the house, at which lime I took the gun out of my pocket and hit heron the back of the head. I saw her stumble. I had my finger on the trigger. I went to hit her again because I was so angry. I then raised the gun again and it went off. I heard a pop sound and saw blood coming out of her head.”
Initially, Fisher told police that Joey Buttafuoco got her the gun. But later she recanted and said she bought it on her own. Her motive: She said she had been seeing Buttafuoco for more than a year, and he was trying to break things off.
When police announced on May 21 that they had arrested Fisher on charges of attempted murder, media interest was tepid. It was reported as a botched Fatal Attraction shooting, teenage style, but in crime-saturated New York City, the story was hardly front-page news. Then came the bombshell: On June 1. the television program A Current Affair broadcast a 14-minute, 36-second video, allegedly showing Amy Fisher engaging in sex—as a prostitute.
The TV show bought the tape for $8,000 from one of Fisher’s customers, Peter De Rosa, 28, who had secretly recorded the second of their three paid sexual encounters. The video, shot in his home, opens with Fisher sitting on the edge of a bed. “[Let’s] take care of business. Then we don’t worry about this when we lake care of pleasure,” she tells De Rosa. “I don’t like to think of business and pleasure at the same time.”
“Ahh, I think I know what you’re saying,” De Rosa replies.
On the tape, he pays her $100. Then, after a few minutes of frolicking on the bed, she asks him to turn out the light. For the next seven minutes, the screen is dark. After the lights come back on, De Rosa asks her to accompany him to a bachelor party. “Anything,” she says. “I’m wild. I don’t care. I like sex.”
The press went wild too. LONG ISLAND LOLITA proclaimed more than one tabloid. THE LOLITA TAPES, screamed the New York Daily News. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT BY DAY…CALL GIRL BY NIGHT, trumpeted the New York Post. OH, AMY, OH, AMY, OH, AMY, ooohed New York Newsday.
De Rosa was not Fisher’s only customer to come forward. As Assistant District Attorney Fred Klein explained in court June 2, “At least four witnesses have confirmed that [Fisher] is employed as an escort and in that capacity has worked as a professional prostitute.” Her employer, police said, was ABBA escort service, located in a two-family home on a quid residential street in Baldwin, N.Y.
Fisher could not have been ABBA’s favorite employee. In court, Klein said she was “so shrewd and so manipulative and so brazen” that she tried to cut out the escort service by having her regular customers—about 10 men—contact her directly, using a beeper she wore to school.
At Klein’s request, Nassau County Court Judge Marvin Goodman set Fisher’s bail at a startling $2 million, the highest in the history of the populous county. Klein argued that Fisher was a flight risk who had more reason than ever to kill Mary Jo Buttafuoco, since Mary Jo was the only person who could identify her assailant. “One might describe this defendant as a 17-year-old girl who lives at home with her parents and goes to high school,” Klein said. “That would be about as accurate as describing [mob boss] John Gotti as a businessman from New York City. This is not your typical 17-year-old high school student.”
The bail was greeted with a certain outrage. “Amy Fisher will be made to pay as much for her sexuality as for any crime she may have committed,” wrote New York Post columnist Amy Pagnozzi, “while the men will get off like they always do.”
Two days later Fisher’s attorney Eric Naiburg unsuccessfully appealed the high bail. Then he made an announcement that both shocked—and astounded—lawyers, journalists and filmmakers following the case. He offered to sell exclusive rights to Fisher’s story to anyone who would put up the bail. Even though $2 million is more than 100 times above what is generally paid for TV-movie rights, Naiburg says he received more than a dozen offers in one day. He hopes to announce a deal this week. “If this child has to utilize the only asset she has left—the publicity surrounding this case—she’s going to utilize it,” he says. Joey Buttafuoco’s attorney, Marvyn Kornberg, promptly threatened to try to stop Naiburg in court if Hollywood bails Fisher out. This could propel Fisher, he told reporters, “from a $180-a-night prostitute to a $2 million-a-night prostitute.”
At times, the legal maneuvering threatened to eclipse the story of Amy Fisher, which continued to dribble out in front-page story after front-page story. Four years ago Fisher, an only child, and her parents—Rose, 39, and Elliot, 56—moved from Wantagh to neighboring Merrick. Her parents operated the Stitch-N-Sew upholstery shop in nearby Freeport. Amy was a strange combination of loner and attention-grabbing individualist. Students at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, where Amy was a below-average student, say she was always ahead of the curve when it came to teen trends. She had a fancy car, a black 1990 Chrysler LeBaron convertible. And she wore a beeper, a high-status item among Long Island teens, even those who did not use them for criminal purposes.
Just before Christmas 1990, Fisher was in an auto accident. Her father look her car—then a 1989 Dodge Daytona—to Joey Buttafuoco’s repair shop, the Complete Auto Body and Fender Co., in Baldwin. What happened next is a matter of dispute. After allegedly telling police he had had an affair with Fisher, Buttafuoco now says no such thing happened. In several interviews he has told reporters that Fisher hung out at his shop, even banging up her car repeatedly as an excuse to be there. He said they had pizza together once. And he admitted he called her often, leaving the prearranged code “007” on her beeper.
But he insisted their relationship was platonic and that he had her beeper number simply because she was a frequent customer. Curiously, he chose to defend himself on a syndicated radio call-in show. “Mary Jo’s my high school sweetheart,” he told host Howard Stern. “I’ve been dying to be with a 37-year-old woman all my life. I finally got one. What the hell. Am I going to go back with a 16-or 17-year-old throwback?” Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s mother, Pat Connery, backs him up. “I don’t consider him my son-in-law,” she told another radio talk show audience. “He’s my son. He’s one of my kids.” And Mary Jo herself told an interviewer that she stood by her husband. “We haven’t had a fairytale life,” she said. “Only Joey and I know the inside story. And the story is pretty simple: I love my Joey. My Joey loves me.”
Fisher’s attorney, Naiburg, tells a different story. He says that Buttafuoco, who has two children—Paul, 12, and Jessica, 9—had sex with Fisher nearly every day for about a year. Naiburg says they used various South Shore motels, Buttafuoco’s office or his 31-foot powerboat, Double Trouble. Naiburg also claims Buttafuoco was Fisher’s pimp. “Amy Fisher was used and abused by Mr. Buttafuoco,” he says. “He did a number of things that were reprehensible—including putting a young girl into prostitution and using a young girl for his own purposes. I believe the wrong person stands before the docket at this time.”
Police say there is no evidence, so far, that ties Buttafuoco to prostitution, and Buttafuoco denies all allegations. However, the Daily News interviewed owners of two escort services who said Buttafuoco recruited young women to work for ABBA and was known by the nickname Joey Coco-Pops because he supplied cocaine to hookers and their clients. Buttafuoco denies both charges, but he does admit to being treated for an unspecified “substance-abuse problem” three years ago. His attorney says he is “free of that problem” now.
If Buttafuoco and Fisher were having an affair, it apparently started to go sour last summer. In August, Amy went to one of her schoolmates, Christopher Drellos, 18, and offered him sex and money if he would help her kill Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Drellos’s attorney, Barry Agulnick, says his client declined the offer but drove her to a restaurant, where he introduced her to Stephen Sleeman, 20, a waiter. During the next two months, Sleeman says, he met Amy frequently at the marina next to the Buttafuoco home. His job was to sit in his white Plymouth Horizon and watch the house, to determine Mary Jo’s routine. Amy would pay him, he says, with sex. She also gave him $600. When he asked where she got it, he says she replied, “I sleep with men for money.”
During their meetings, says Sleeman, Fisher frequently talked about Joey. “She said, ‘He loves me and we have great sex,’ ” he says. “She was infatuated with him. It’s all she talked about. Joey. Joey. Joey.” Finally he asked her why she had sex with other men if she loved Joey so much. Her answer, Sleeman says: “I’m bored. I need a lot of sex.”
The day after Halloween, according to Sleeman, Amy came up with a plan. Sleeman was to hide in the bushes with his .22-caliber hunting rifle while Amy rang the Buttafuoco doorbell and pretended to be selling candy for charity. When Mary Jo was in firing range, Sleeman was to shoot her. But he had no intention of going through with it, he says, and he didn’t load the gun. When it came time to fire, he ran. “I split,” he says. “I said, ‘I’m outta here. This girl’s psycho.’ ”
Sleeman says Amy then told him she would do the job herself. In April, he says, she called him and said she had found someone else to help her. That someone else, police say, was Peter Guagenti, 21, a Brooklyn auto-parts-store worker.
On May 19, police say, Guagenti met Amy at her home and sold her the gun for a reported $800. There was no sex, although Guagenti told police he hoped there might be. He then drove Fisher to the Buttafuoco home in his bright red 1983 Thunderbird. Amy had already checked out the house and knew that Mary Jo was painting lawn furniture on a rear deck. “He sat outside the home while Fisher went up and shot Mrs. Buttafuoco,” said Klein. “Then he assisted in her escape from the scene and drove Amy home.” But Robert Aiello, one of Guagenti’s attorneys, said his client had no idea a shooting was in the works. “She came running into the car with a gun, and he drove off as fast as he could,” Aiello told reporters. “He panicked.”
Mary Jo Buttafuoco is out of the hospital now, but she has nerve damage to the right side of her face, permanent hearing loss and double vision. She also loses her balance easily. Amy remains in jail, separated from other prisoners, waiting for someone to post bond. Her trial is expected to begin early next year. She spends some of her time watching TV news and reading the papers, although her lawyer told her not to bother. She also has been studying for her final exams, which she took in jail last week. But even if she passes, even if she is released on bail, she will not attend her high school graduation June 28. Neither the school nor her lawyer want the media circus that would invite.
MARIA EFTIMIADES on Long Island