Twenty years ago, Amy Fisher walked out of an upstate New York prison and boarded a chartered plane for the trip home. Dubbed the “Long Island Lolita” by New York tabloids, she had dominated headlines in 1992 as the obsessed, gun-toting teen caught in a love triangle with a mechanic and his unassuming wife.
Seven years after pleading guilty to a reckless-assault charge in the brazen shooting of her lover’s wife, Fisher, 24 years old, was being released from prison early on May 10, 1999. And she had one person in particular to thank for it: the woman she nearly killed, Mary Jo Buttafuoco.
Buttafuoco was 37 when Fisher fired a bullet from a .25-caliber gun into her head near the front door of the Massapequa, New York home she shared with husband Joey, the burly owner of a local auto-body repair shop.
Fisher’s second chance stemmed from the victim’s testimony at an April 1999 resentencing hearing, slated after a court found that Fisher had not been fairly represented by her first lawyer at her 1992 trial.
Buttafuoco, an Irish Catholic mother of two, asked a criminal court judge to show mercy to the teen: “She has shown true remorse and sorrow for what she did to me,” she told State Supreme Court judge Ira Wexner.
Speaking to Fisher directly, Buttafuoco said: “You are being given a second chance in life, and I pray you will take it and make something positive out of all this tragedy.” Fisher, in turn, said: “What happened to you…it wasn’t your husband’s fault… It was my fault, and I’m sorry.”
The two women clasped hands in a courtroom that had fallen still.
Wexner vacated Fisher’s 1992 guilty plea to reckless assault, which had carried a 5-to-15-year sentence.
In public statements, Mary Jo explained her position: “She needed to be punished—she tried to kill me—but Amy Fisher is not a ‘Lolita.’ This is a sick girl. This is not a seductress.” The victim had begun corresponding with Fisher’s mother, Roseann, two years earlier—another factor that contributed to the merciful twist in the case.
The apology earned Fisher parole a few weeks later from the Albion Correctional Facility. For his part in the scandal, Joey Buttafuoco had earlier been sentenced to six months in jail for statutory rape, because the affair had begun when Fisher was 16.
Fisher’s flight to freedom closed the first chapter of a saga that had begun with the gunshot fired in a jealous rage on May 19, 1992. The case spawned global headlines, as well as three made-for-TV movies. (One starred Drew Barrymore as Fisher; another, sitcom actress Alyssa Milano.)
Fisher is 44 now, a divorced mother of three. She returned to New York a couple of years ago, after seeking a fresh start in Florida, where she found it difficult to escape her notoriety: “My kids were ostracized,” she told the New York Post in 2017.
“They had no friends. All the mothers thought their kids would get the ‘Amy Fisher gene’ if they hung out with them.”
After Fisher’s release, the Buttafuocos moved to the West Coast, formally divorcing in 2003. Joey Buttafuoco has tried to parlay his notoriety into a Hollywood career, with small parts in movies and TV shows including “Celebrity Boxing” (in which he fought Fisher’s husband). He has also had several arrests and served a jail sentence for auto-insurance fraud. He remarried in 2005 to Evanka Franjko.
Fisher remained on Long Island, writing newspaper columns for the Long Island Press and promoting a book, If I Knew Then…, written with the paper’s editor. The same year the Buttafuocos moved to California, Fisher married Lou Bellera, a one-time NYPD cop.
Fisher says Bellera guided her toward a career in the sex industry, a charge Bellera denied to the New York Post. Fisher had breast augmentation, among other cosmetic procedures. An amateur sex tape was released in 2007, which led to strip-club appearances, additional porn films (Deep Inside Amy Fisher) and a feature spot on a season of “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
Fisher, Joey and Mary Jo were paid to hold a 2006 TV reunion that culminated in the two women embracing on camera. Fisher and Mary Jo appeared on “Entertainment Tonight” that same year. In 2007, Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco met for a dinner on Long Island that a TV producer said was an attempt to lay the groundwork for a reality show.
In 2008, Fisher was a guest on “The Howard Stern Show,” where she was expected to discuss her video. But she left the broadcast minutes into the interview, after the first phone call—which came from Jessica Buttafuoco, Mary Jo and Joey’s daughter.
Fisher and Bellera divorced in 2015.
Mary Jo Buttafuoco published a book about the shooting and her relationship with her ex-husband in 2009. In Getting It Through My Thick Skull, she laid out an argument for why her ex-husband was a “sociopath.”
In 2012, she married Stu Tendler, a printing-industry professional raised in New York. He died of cancer last year.
Mary Jo still lives with the remnants of Fisher’s bullet in her head, and its effects. She serves as an advocate for people with facial paralysis.
Speaking with Long Island’s Newsday at the time her book was published, Mary Jo said she still thinks of Fisher “a lot.”
“Every day, when I look in the mirror and I can’t move my face in a certain way.”