Las Vegas Sun

December 20, 2014

Currently: 52° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Linda Pugach, blinded in infamous NYC crime, dies

Image

Magnolia Pictures and Shoot the Moon Productions / AP

This handout photo provided by Magnolia Pictures shows Linda and Burt Pugach in 1974. The two are the subject of the movie, “Crazy Love.” 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, died Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in New York. She was 75.

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.

After the release of "Crazy Love," Pugach praised filmmaker Dan Klores for revealing a story that for the first time "has colors — it was no longer black and white."

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 told the AP in an interview 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. Under cross-examination by Pugach, a disbarred lawyer who defended himself, she said couldn't have sex with him after undergoing heart surgery in 1990.

"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 on Dec. 26, 2012, two days before they had scheduled a trip to Florida to buy a property in Boca Raton.

"I don't know how I'm going to go on without her," he said.

On Thursday he again denied that 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 in a crypt in Paramus, N.J. on Thursday.

"There's a place for me there. We'll be together," he said.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 1 comment so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. What a lovely, heartwarming story.

    Lye in the eye, makes me wanna cry.