The crazy case of Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco
Updated: Apr 9, 2022
So today I’m going to do something a little bit different. I usually do list articles, but I’m going to try focusing on one case for an entire post. As much as I enjoy lists, some of these cases I cover are so detailed and extensive that I didn’t feel like I had enough room to give them the attention they needed. I don’t know if I’ll continue to do them in the future, but it will probably be on a case by case basis.
The first case I’m going to cover took place in 1992. It was really well known at the time, and several of the people involved still make public appearances in one way or the other. I was too young to remember these events at the time, and I’d imagine a pretty large chunk of my audience is in the same boat. So today I’m going to tell you about the absolutely insane case of Amy Fisher, Joey Buttafuoco, and Mary Jo Buttafuoco.
Amy Fisher was born on August 21, 1974 in Merrick, New York. Growing up, she was described as a quiet loner who didn’t stand out or care much about what people thought of her. This is probably a good thing, since she was apparently not very well liked.
But Amy’s home life was far from perfect. She was in and out of hospitals as a kid, and one incident when she was young left her blind in one eye. When she was around middle school age, she didn't wear her glasses enough and would get constant headaches. It’s not confirmed, but it’s pretty likely she was given opioid medication for the pain, being introduced to it at a very young age. At one point, the eye drops she had to use would get matted in her hair and doctors had to shave her head. She would get made fun of for having her head shaved.
Growing up, Amy had a good relationship with her mother, but relationship with her father was strained.She was apparently ’terrified’ of him. She would later allege sexual assault by a family member, as well as by a contractor working on the house when she was 13. After these things happened, she ’numbed’ the pain and tried to bury her emotions to forget about it. She had several relationships in her teenage years and got pregnant at one point, but that pregnancy ended in an abortion. In February 1991, she tried to run away.
The incident that ended up changing Amy’s life started out as just another bad thing. In May 1991, when Amy was 16, she was backing her car out of the garage when she ripped her side mirror off. Amy was scared of what her father would say, so she took the car by herself to an auto repair shop in Baldwin, New York, just down the road from Merrick, where I’m assuming her family still lived. When she got there, she met the owner of the shop, Joey Buttafuoco.
Joey Buttafuoco was born on March 11, 1956 in New York City, but grew up on Long Island (where most of our story takes place). There’s not a lot of information that I could find about Joey’s early life, but he did say at one point that he was “born into” the auto repair business. In 1971, when Joey was a freshman in high school, he met a girl named Mary Jo. The two became friends and, eventually, much more. When Mary Jo was 22 and Joey was 21, they were married.
At first, the couple seemed to have a great life. They got along really well, and each of their respective families approved of the match. By 1987, the couple had settled into a beautiful house on the beach in Massapequa, New York with their two young children. Joey took the kids out on the family boat on the weekends and in the summer. Everything seemed good.
But there was at least one major hiccup bubbling underneath the surface. When the couple bought the new house in Massapequa, they had to sell their old one. Joey eventually told Mary Jo that he had sold the house to a drug dealer who threatened his life. (Since he was involved with a drug dealer, I think we can safely assume he was also involved with drugs, even though I couldn’t find it explicitly stated anywhere.) Mary Jo was angry, but stood by Joey with the stipulation that he go to rehab, which he did. After that, things seemed good…but all that changed in May 1991, when Joey met Amy Fisher.
Like I said earlier, Amy was terrified of her father’s reaction if he found out what she’d done to her car (which she’d received as a gift for her 16th birthday). But when Joey told her how much the repairs would cost, she knew she needed her dad’s help because she couldn’t afford it herself. Joey suggested she tell her dad that someone else sideswiped her. She did this, and it worked. The next day, she and her dad came into the repair shop together and eventually worked out the repair fees and details.
Amy reportedly visited the repair shop another 14 times over the next few weeks. I’ve done something similar to my car that Amy did to hers — I was backing out of my garage and got too close to the far wall, which took my driver’s side mirror clean off. The entire process of getting it fixed took two, maybe three trips to the repair shop. If she made 14 trips to the shop over such a short period of time, I’m guessing she was going for another reason — and I think we all know what that is.
After the repairs were done, Amy decided to have a stereo system installed in her car. Her trips to the repair shop continued until July 2. That day, after working on her car, Joey agreed to drive Amy home. Once they got to her house, he made sexual advances on her, and she accepted them.
Over the next few weeks their relationship blossomed into a full blown affair. Amy would later describe the affair as being filled with “expensive restaurants and cheap motels.” The couple would have sex four to five times a week anywhere they could — including Amy’s house, Joey’s repair shop, even the boat he took his family out on in the summer! Two weeks into the affair, Amy got herpes. She had to tell her parents about it but didn’t tell them who she’d probably gotten it from. Joey would later deny giving Amy herpes, but STD’s were the least of this couples’ worries.
From what I’ve read, it’s pretty clear that Amy was much more devoted to Joey than he was to her. Amy felt like she could talk to Joey about things she’d never talked about with anyone and kept falling deeper in love with him. She eventually became obsessive and distanced herself from her family and friends. Joey, on the other hand, wasn’t as committed. In the years following, he’s claimed that Amy was never his girlfriend or lover, but that she wanted to be. And, even though he told Amy how unhappy he was in his marriage, he refused to leave Mary Jo. In November, four months into the affair, Amy gave Joey an ultimatum: Her or Mary Jo. He chose Mary Jo.
Needless to say, Amy was devastated. At one point, she pretended to sell candy door to door in Joey’s neighborhood to see if she could get a glimpse of Mary Jo. She also attempted suicide. But she did eventually start seeing another guy, a gym co-manager named Paul Makely. But Joey was the only person she truly had eyes for and, by January 1992, they were back together.
It’s not 100 % clear when Amy came up with the idea to kill Mary Jo. According to one report, she went to get her hair done on May 13 by a friend of hers named Jane. While there, Jane complained that her boyfriend was cheating on her. She expressed her anger over the other woman by saying she wanted to “get a gun and blow her head off.” While she was probably joking, this statement set off a lightbulb in Amy’s head, and she asked Jane where she thought she could get a gun.
But according to other reports, Amy had been plotting to get rid of Mary Jo since the beginning of her relationship with Joey. She claimed she often brought it up to Joey, and that she told him of her plan to get a gun after her talk with Jane. Joey has denied any knowledge of or involvement in Amy’s plan.
After their conversation at the salon, Jane referred Amy to 21-year-old Peter Guagenti. Guagenti agreed to give Amy the gun and drive her to the scene — in exchange for oral sex and money. Amy also stole license plates and attached them to the car of her other boyfriend, Paul Makely, which would be used as their getaway car.
On the morning of May 19, 1992, Mary Jo Buttafuoco was at home painting. At some point between 11:30 and noon, there was a knock on the door. She opened it up to a girl she didn’t recognize who asked if she was Joey Buttafuoco’s wife.
At first, she thought the girl might need Joey because she was having car troubles. She also wondered if the girl was selling Girl Scout cookies. (Pro tip from a former Girl Scout: Cookies are usually sold in the winter and early spring. Not in May.)
When Mary Jo stepped outside, the girl said something she didn’t expect. She said her name was Ann Marie, she was 19, and Joey was having an affair with her 16-year-old sister. To prove this, she held up a t-shirt from the repair shop and said she’d found it at their house. But Mary Jo was skeptical. Joey had given away plenty of those shirts, so this didn’t prove anything. She was also curious as to why Joey would leave a shirt somewhere and then come home shirtless.
Mary Jo asked the girl to leave, saying she’d tell Joey she came by. But as she turned to go back inside, the girl pulled out a gun, aimed it at Mary Jo’s right temple, and pulled the trigger. Then she ran off into a nearby car waiting for her. She and her getaway driver eventually disposed of the gun in a nearby sewer.
Neighbors heard the gunshot and ran to the Buttafuoco residence to see what was going on. When they saw Mary Jo lying unconscious on the ground covered in blood, they called 911. Miraculously, she had survived the gunshot wound, but the prognosis was grim. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors immediately began emergency surgery.
During surgery, detectives interviewed Joey, who was understandably distraught. He wasn’t a suspect at this point; all they wanted was to get more information about who could have done this. Joey told them about Paul and Amy, but said he and Amy were just friends. He told detectives he had advised Amy against giving Paul drug money, and Paul knew he had said this and wanted revenge on him, so he went after his wife. Police were skeptical, but didn't have much else to go on.
Meanwhile, the case got the attention of the media. Everyone was wondering who could have possibly attacked Mary Jo in a supposedly safe area. Rumors ranged from a robbery gone wrong to involvement from the mob. But police had no solid leads.
Then Mary Jo emerged from her coma. I found three different sources that gave three different dates for this. One said May 20, another said May 21, and yet another said May 22.But regardless of when it actually happened, this was the break investigators were looking for. Although she was on lots of pain medication and couldn’t really speak, Mary Jo managed to write down the details of the attack. She told detectives about a brown haired girl named Ann Marie who had shown her one of Joey’s t-shirts.
When Joey found out about the t-shirt, he said he had only given one of those particular shirts away — to Amy Fisher. Police showed Mary Jo a picture of Amy, who she immediately identified as the shooter. There was a warrant put out for Amy’s arrest. Investigators staked out her house, but there was no sign of her by the next day. So they got Joey to call her and, once it was established that she was at home, she was arrested. On May 29, she was indicted on charges of second degree attempted murder, criminal use of a firearm, assault, and several others. She pled not guilty.
The case had gained some media attention after the shooting. But once the perpetrator was revealed, the story exploded. Police had been looking for a male shooter this entire time, and were stunned when the shooter turned out to be a teenage girl. Details of the affair came out, and the tabloids eventually gave Amy her now famous nickname “The Long Island Lolita.”
After Amy’s arrest, she got a lawyer who immediately went into damage control. Amy had initially said the shooting was an accident — she went to the Buttafuoco residence to talk to Mary Jo, when the gun accidentally went off. Needless to say, that didn’t work, so they tried a new tactic: Painting Amy as the victim. Her lawyer pinned everything on Joey, saying the whole thing was his idea. He tried to portray Amy as a poor, innocent young girl manipulated by an older man. While Amy probably was manipulated by Joey to a degree, the attempts to salvage her reputation failed spectacularly.
During her affair with Joey, Amy had bought a new car. But she was fired from her job in September and was in desperate need of money. Joey suggested she work as a prostitute, which she did. She apparently hated it, but sucked it up and did it anyway because she needed to make her car payments. Joey would later deny he even knew she was a prostitute. He also denied having an affair with her at all.
But others weren’t so coy about their involvement with Amy. One of Amy’s former clients had a sex tape of the two of them he had secretly recorded. The tape was eventually aired on national television, which is kind of stunning. This was how the world discovered Amy had been a prostitute — and how Amy and her lawyer realized her reputation was pretty much damaged beyond repair.
In September 1992, Amy accepted a plea deal. In exchange for pleading guilty to reckless assault and for her testimony against Joey, she would only get 5 to 15 years in jail. She was eventually sentenced to 15 years, with her sentence set to begin in December. In October, prosecutors said they wouldn’t be pursuing charges against Joey in the case.
Two days after Amy accepted the plea deal, her “other” boyfriend, Paul Makely, released a tape he’d secretly recorded of them when Amy was out on bail earlier in the year. The tape was 90 minutes long and featured Amy talking about all the things she wanted to do before she went to prison, namely getting drunk, playing pool and going to the Hamptons. She also bragged she’d be out of jail in less than three years, and claimed she wanted to keep her name in the press so she could make money. She also suggested she and Paul could get married so they could have conjugal visits, and joked about how she should get a Ferrari for all the “pain and suffering” she’d been though.
Obviously this couldn’t exactly be used against her since she’d already been sentenced. But it didn’t help her already shattered reputation. She even attempted suicide over the fallout as well as Paul’s betrayal.
Amy had been released on bail by a production company who wanted the rights to her story. I’m not sure exactly who ended up getting them, but in 1993, The Amy Fisher Story was released, with Drew Barrymore in the title role. At least two more movies based on the case have been released since then, and Amy released an autobiography in April 1993. The case has clearly cemented its place in pop culture history.
In February 1993, Peter Guagenti, Amy’s getaway driver, was sentenced to six months in jail for his role in the crime. That same month, prosecutors said they would investigate Joey for statutory rape. Amy has turned 17 a month into their affair, which is the age of consent in New York. But when they first began sleeping together, she was still a minor in the eyes of the law.
In the spring, Amy testified against Joey in front of a grand jury. Mary Jo testified forhim and adamantly denied that he had cheated, despite Amy’s testimony to the contrary. Joey was indicted on rape and sodomy charges. He initially continued to deny the affair, but eventually realized there was too much evidence against him. On October 6, 1993, he pled guilty to one count of statutory rape in exchange for 18 other charges being dropped. He was sentenced to six months in jail, and ended up serving four.
In 1996, the Buttafuoco family moved to California. At this point, Mary Jo still refused to believe that Joey had ever cheated on her, despite all evidence to the contrary. But soon after the move, the healing process began and she finally accepted the truth. In 1999, Amy was set for a parole hearing. Mary Jo flew back to New York to request that Amy be released because she was young and could still turn her life around. Her request was granted, and Amy was released on parole after serving seven years of her 15 year sentence. Mary Jo and Joey separated in 2000 and, in 2003, after 26 years of marriage, they divorced.
Mary Jo appeared on Oprah in 2005. After the episode aired, a reconstructive surgeon offered her surgery to fix some of the crookedness still in her face. She accepted, and was happy with the results. In 2009, she released a memoir called Getting it Through my Thick Skull. She remarried in 2012.
After the divorce, Joey had several brushes with the law. Among them were an arrest for soliciting a prostitute and a year long jail sentence in 2004 for insurance fraud. That one also got him banned from the auto industry for life. But being banned from the career he claimed to be “born into” probably didn’t phase him much, as he’s had a lucrative career as a D-list actor. He appeared on Celebrity Boxing in 2002 as well as in several movies, including Finding Forrester where he played…"Night Man.” He remarried in 2005 to a woman he’d previously met at his auto shop — the same way he met Amy. So I guess if I want to find a boyfriend, I should ditch the online dating sites and start hanging out at auto repair shops. Then again, they divorced two years later…so maybe not.
Amy’s parole ended in 2003. That same year, she married a former police officer, and the couple have two children together. She released a tell all book in 2004 titled If I Knew Then.
In 2007, Amy's husband sold private sex tapes of them. She sued the company that distributed them for copyright infringement, and she and her husband separated.
It was around this time that rumors began to spread that Amy and Joey had rekindled their relationship. They had appeared together at the Lingerie Bowl the previous year, and both were now separated from their spouses. Mary Jo said she wasn’t really bothered by the rumors; she and Joey had been divorced for awhile now, and she was engaged to someone else.
Amy claimed at one point that she and Joey were back together, but later said she lied about it to get a reality TV show and “to piss off Mary Jo.” However, she did admit that they had a fling at one point, but it only lasted about a week. Apparently Amy wasn’t quite as into it this time around, saying he was older, hadn’t taken care of himself, and had “man boobs.”
Yeah…you can’t make this stuff up.
As if that wasn’t crazy enough, she claimed to have no sympathy for Mary Jo, saying she had been just as fame hungry as Amy herself. Amy said “The fact that Mary Jo has a bullet in her head means nothing! I still have silicone in my boobs, and you don’t hear me complaining. She can’t feel her bullet, and I can’t feel my silicone.”
Yeah…I’ll just give you a second to let that sink in.
Anyway, by January 2008, Amy had reunited with her husband, and they worked to release their sex tape together. In March, she appeared on The Howard Stern Show, but was soon joined by an unexpected guest…Joey and Mary Jo’s daughter, Jessica Buttafuoco. The conversation grew hostile and Amy stormed out. Stern later called it his “shortest interview ever.” In 2009, she starred in a pay per view porn special called ‘Amy Fisher: Totally Nude & Exposed.'
In 2011, she appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. She claimed she only drank when she went out but blacked out every time she drank. She told Dr. Drew she thought everyone did this and didn’t realize it was abnormal at all. Until a rehab tech informed her, she didn’t even know what blacking out meant. She also claimed she always got drunk before filming porn scenes. However, when she signed up for the show she said “I don’t need rehab. But I think I made for an interesting cast member.” No word on whether she’s changed her mind since.
Amy and her husband divorced in 2015. She lived in Florida for awhile, but moved back to Long Island in 2017 after growing tired of her children being harassed due to their relation to her.
Mary Jo’s relationship with Amy has been up and down over the years. Sometimes she’s cordial and forgiving, sometimes she puts her on blast. In a 2018 interview, Mary Jo called Amy a narcissist and said she didn’t seem to have learned from her mistakes. However, she did end up forgiving Amy again, so hopefully it lasts.
So what are your thoughts on this case? Do you have sympathy for Amy, or do you agree with Mary Jo that she hasn’t learned anything? Do you think Joey knew about Amy’s plan to kill Mary Jo, or was he in the dark? Let me know in the comments.