Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Contract Murder of Kathryn Ann Martini-Lissy

Lissy's Testimony

Towards the end of his trial, Lissy took the witness stand. Appearing confident and at ease, he told the jury that the murder plans in which he was accused of participating were merely fantasized plots he constructed for kicks. The catch was that he never told his associates with whom he plotted, mainly pimps and prostitutes, that the plots were a fantasy. If he had told them, he said, "then there's no more game going on. If it's not real, people don't want to play."

"There had been two other plots and three other hit men she'd [the prostitute] brought to menothing ever happened," Lissy said. "I don't think we ever backed out, it's just the time to do it expired...I've asked myself ten-thousand times, why didn't you see it was going to happen? It just never did....It [the plotting] was a rush, you know, getting involved and all that. Is there a logical reason? No, it was just something I did. There was basically one plot but probably fifteen different people [who had been involved in the plotting] that Kathy would be killed in Eugene while on a business trip, at the Valley River Inn."

"I was hoping against hope and praying like hell that I wasn't involved," Lissy continued, describing his feelings when the police contacted him on July 6 to tell him that his wife had been murdered in Eugene. "You can't talk about somebody dying and then have it happen and not wonder" about the level of involvement.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Barnes asked Lissy at one point if he would lie to beat the murder charge he was facing.

"I'm sure I probably would," Lissy replied, but quickly caught himself and changed his statement. "I probably would at one pointI wouldn't now...I've always, when I was cornered, used what I could." He said that he had been able to lie straight-faced "for as long as I can remember."

"You'd do whatever you could to survive?" Barnes asked.

"That's right," replied Lissy. "I lied repeatedly to the police. I did not want to be arrested. I did not want to be charged with the murder of my wife."

Although Lissy said, "I think I'm responsible for Kathy's death," he maintained throughout his trial that he never intended for her to actually be killed. Instead, he said, the "street people" with whom he had associated had taken it upon themselves to carry out the "fantasy" plots because they had thought the plots were for real.

What about the large sums of money he had paid out? Lissy claimed that the money had been paid as bribes, to keep Wilson and other quiet after the murder had occurred.

"Right afterward, I paid a lot of bribes to people to keep quiet...it came down to paying off the people who were involved," Lissy said.

In summing up Lissy's defense to the jury, attorney Sticka said that his client, although "morally despicable," was a victim like his dead wife, a victim of others who wanted to obtain money. Sticka said that Lissy's habitual fantasies of murder plots were transformed into reality by the pimps and prostitutes he tried so hard to impress.

"It's the Walter Mitty syndrome....He was living in a world of fantasy and could not determine the extent to which his behavior was dangerous," Sticka told the jury. "So I submit what you have here is an unintended extension of the fantasy life of Michael Lissy. Never in any of these schemes has he ever intended the death of another human being...he's a victim of his own mouth."

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