Monday, June 18, 2018

Linda Pugach, blinded in infamous NYC crime, dies

NEW YORK — Linda Pugach, who was blinded in 1959 when her lover hired hit men to throw lye in her face — and became a media sensation after later marrying him — has died, her husband said Thursday. She was 75.

The infamous New York City crime was detailed in the 2007 documentary Crazy Love.

Pugach, who hid behind dark glasses for the rest of her life, died Tuesday at the Long Island Jewish Hospital in Queens. The cause was heart failure, said her husband, Burton Pugach, who spent 14 years in prison for hiring the thugs to attack his then-girlfriend Linda Riss after she spurned him. He was married at the time, and the heinous attack became an instant tabloid sensation.

After his release, Pugach divorced his first wife and convinced Riss to marry him in 1974. He proposed to her on live television.

"This was a very fairy tale romance," a sobbing Pugach told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Two decades after his release from prison, Pugach was accused in another case with chilling similarities but acquitted of the charges in 1997. He had been accused of threatening and harassing another lover after she tried to end their five-year affair. That woman testified that he threatened to make it "1959 all over again."

He said at the time: "Haven't you ever threatened to kill your husband? Did you mean it? Of course not. . . . This has been blown out of proportion like I've never seen."

Linda Pugach testified at that trial, describing her husband as a good man.

"He was a naughty little boy and he was caught," she said as she left the courtroom on his arm. She said he was an adulterer, not a criminal.

Pugach said his wife went into the hospital Dec. 26, 2012, two days before they had scheduled a trip to Florida to buy a property in Boca Raton.

On Thursday, he again denied he was ever involved in the attack.

"If I had told anyone to throw lye at her, would she have married me? A monster does that," he said.

Linda Pugach was being laid to rest Thursday in a crypt in Paramus, N.J.

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