Things That Matter

Story Of NYC Lawyer Who Went To Prison For Blinding His Girlfriend Then Married Her After His Sentence Resurfaces Again

Burt Pugach gained national attention in the 1950s after he was sent to prison for blinding his girlfriend with lye after she broke up with him. Fourteen years later, the New York City lawyer wrangled in headlines once again when it was revealed that after all of this, he persuaded his victim, Linda Riss, to marry him.

Now, almost 46 years after their marriage, Pugach’s story is headlining websites again. This time, as a result of his death, which occurred on Christmas Eve, and triggered another bizarre tale.

The 93-year-old lawyer made naional headlines for the first time in 1959 when he was 31 years old and cheating on his wife.

In 1959 Pugach was a New York-based lawyer who began a courtship with Linda Riss who was 21-years-old and from the East Bronx. When Riss learned that Pugach was married and had a daughter, she broke off their relationship. Enraged, Pugach threatened to kill or hurt Riss saying “If I can’t have you, no one else will have you, and when I get through with you no one else will want you.”

Riss reported the threat to the New York Police Department but did not receive help. When she became engaged to another man she was violated by Pugach who hired three assailants to attack her. The attackers threw lye in Riss’s face, leaving her blind in one eye, almost blind in the other, and forever scarred.

Bizarrely, in 1974, after spending 14 years in prison for the crime, Pugach and Riss resumed their relationship and married. In 1976 they even co-wrote a book, A Very Different Love Story. This story gets weirder (and it doesn’t end here): in 1997, Linda supported Pugarch and appeared at a trial as a character witness for him when he was accused of threatening another woman with whom he had an affair.

Linda died of heart failure on January 22, 2013, and in 2007 their story was produced into a documentary called Crazy Love which was directed by Dan Klores.

Now, years later, Pugach is in the news after he died and it was revealed that he left his $15 million estate to a female caregiver.

According to Daily Mail, “the funds have been frozen by a judge after friends and former colleagues accused Shamin ‘Sheila’ Frawley of coercing Pugach into changing his will after he suffered a stroke.”

Court documents obtained by Daily Mail alleged that Frawley, 52, withheld food and medicine from him until he died. “Pugach revised his will at least five times after Linda succumbed to heart failure in 2013, gifting differing amounts to friends, but always leaving the bulk of the money to a foundation for the visually impaired set up in his late wife’s honor.”

Peter S. Thomas, the foundation’s attorney noted that ‘Burt lived his entire life for Linda. I cannot imagine that under any circumstances, as incapacitated as he was, that he would even think to cut out the foundation.”

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