The Murder of Captain Amy Fitgerald
A Tale of Deception and Double Lives
When my sister was in college, one of her best friends discovered that her father had abandoned a wife and two kids years before she was born. Neither she nor her two sisters had any idea that two half-siblings were growing up in a different part of the country. Her mother had no idea she was wife number two.
The truth came out only when the half-brother was dying of cancer in his early twenties. And not from the lips of the father; the children from his first marriage did a little research and located my sister's friend. Whose heart was broken into a million pieces; by her father's deception, his callous throwing away of his first two children, her discovery- and then loss - of a new family member.
The last I heard, the family did survive the shock, although I am sure there were some lasting psychological scars. In today's case, the betrayal was worse, and the damage was deadly.
Danger on the Homefront
It was 1993. Thirty-year-old Amy Fitzgerald was a decorated U.S. Army captain who won accolades (and a prestigious leadership award) for her role in establishing a blood supply system in Iraq during the Gulf War's ground offensive. After the war, she took an educational leave from the military to get her master's degree in medical technology at the University of Vermont.
It was a sacrifice in more ways than one. Not only did Amy miss the camaraderie of her fellow soldiers, but her husband, Gregory, was also living in another state. He was working on a master's degree in history at the University of Texas in San Antonio. Having a long-distance relationship sucked.
But, by the first week of May, that was about to change. Gregory was graduating the following week and joining his wife in Shelburne, Vermont. His father was planning a big celebration. Just a few days earlier, Amy had been out shopping for a sailboat as a surprise graduation present. She could already picture the two of them out on the water. Life was about to get good.
But it didn't.
On May 8, Gregory strangled Amy to death. On May 11, Burlington police found her body on the floor of her condominium bathroom. Feigning shock and devastation over his wife's murder, Fitzgerald hung out in Vermont just long enough to attend the funeral and fake a reasonable amount of grief. He then disappeared. Police later found out he'd gone on the run with his twenty-two-year-old Texas girlfriend, Lisa Morales.
Only she knew him as Steve.
Gregory Fitzgerald's double lives were about to collide.
A Life Built on Lies
Amy and Gregory had been married for six years, together for ten. Both sets of in-laws thought the couple had a good marriage and loved each other. They said Amy was looking forward to having kids after she finished her degree. The couple Fitzgerald was boarding with in San Antonio also thought he was happily married, recalling his loving description of his wife. His lifestyle seemed to support this; as far as they knew, he spent his days attending college during the day and spending nights studying in the library. That's what their lodger told them.
But Gregory, a.k.a. Steve," was a bullshitter extraordinaire. He was not enrolled at the University of Texas at San Antonio; he had dropped out the previous semester. He did not spend his days at school or his nights at the library; he spent them playing pool, hanging out at local bars, and partying with other women.
Maybe you are the kind of person who likes to give others the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the thought has crossed your mind that perhaps poor Gregory's started out innocently. Maybe he got in over his head with his schoolwork and didn't know how to fess up, or he fell in love with another woman and felt torn between two relationships.
If so, here's a reality check.
Fitzgerald's double life was not a passing fancy. Police later discovered he had two Social Security numbers. He had a separate address to collect bills and correspondence without his wife's knowledge. During a long-ago jaunt to Jacksonville, Florida, "Steve" Fitzgerald had been arrested for soliciting a sex worker. "Steve's" rap sheet also included arrests for resisting and opposing a police officer. Even under his real name, Gregory was no choir boy, racking up charges of assault and battery, fraud, larceny, operating recklessly, and destruction of property.
Gregory Fitzgerald was arrested after a man-hunt and a brief stint on the FBI's Most Wanted List. In 1994, he went to trial, a jury convicted him, and the judge gave him life without parole. But this is not the end of this story.
For years, Gregory Fitzgerald proclaimed his innocence to anyone who would listen. His brother, Leo, once recalled a strange conversation with his brother a few days after Amy's murder, during which he described Gregory as "incoherent and babbling, saying they were going to pin it on him and he was innocent. He was talking suicide."
He repeatedly told his defense attorney that he was innocent during his trial, in spite of the prosecutor showing that Fitzgerald had carried out an elaborate premeditated plan, including other people covering for him, during his secret trip from Texas to Vermont. He insisted he was innocent for decades afterward as he plowed through appeal after appeal.
Until Wednesday, January 12, 2022. On this day, the sixty-four-year-old Fitzgerald stood before a Superior Court judge and admitted what his peers had convicted him of thirty-eight years earlier. He told the judge he was a changed man. "I understand what I did ruined lives," he said. "But I am sorry. Nothing I can say will bring them back. I don't know what else to say."
Perhaps Fitzgerald has seen the error in his ways. From all accounts, he's been a model inmate. But he also has a clear incentive to admit his crime — a shot at freedom. His latest round of appeals caught the eye of Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George, who offered to resentence Fitzgerald to 35 years to life, so long as he admitted his guilt. He would be eligible to seek parole almost immediately.
This doesn't necessarily mean he would get parole, just that he would be able to appear before the parole board and try to convince them to let him out. His odds are about fifty-fifty based on Vermont parole data over the past ten years.
Fitzgerald jumped on it. Amy's family is furious. How do you feel?
Is thirty-eight years behind bars enough time to pay for premeditated murder? Or should that door be closed forever?
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