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Garden City man testifies in wife's murder-for-hire case

Susan Williams leaves the Nassau County Courthouse after

Susan Williams leaves the Nassau County Courthouse after her pre-trial hearing. (Oct. 25, 2010) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Peter Williams thought he had a wonderful marriage until he got the news in 2007 that his wife was having an affair with her boss, he testified Thursday.

When his wife, Susan, eventually admitted the relationship, Peter Williams said he would try to forgive her for the sake of their four children. But nothing was ever the same again, he said.

The Garden City man, 46, was one of the first witnesses in the trial of his now-estranged wife on charges that she tried to hire a hit man earlier this year to kill him. His testimony is expected to continue Friday.

"If you were to ask me in 2006 how my marriage was, I would have said 'Wonderful,' " Peter Williams testified.

But after he learned of that affair and the couple failed to reconcile, Susan Williams had her husband served with divorce papers, he said. The couple was still living together in the family's expansive home on Nassau Boulevard at the time, in early 2008.

"I only wanted half, what I deserved," Peter Williams said calmly, rarely looking directly at his wife, 43, who sat a few yards away at a table in the well of the Mineola courtroom. "But Susan said, 'That's not how it's going to work. Wait and see what I'm going to do to you.' "

Susan Williams, who has pleaded not guilty, faces charges of second- and fourth-degree criminal solicitation, second-degree conspiracy and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. If convicted, she could face a maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Williams asked an acquaintance in February to refer her to a hit man to kill her husband. The hit man that Williams tried to hire turned out to be an undercover police officer, who videotaped her as she paid him a $500 deposit on a $20,000 job, they say.

In addition, Williams faces a felony charge relating to a forged life insurance policy prosecutors say she took out on her husband shortly before she allegedly arranged for the hit.

In her opening statement yesterday, prosecutor Anne Donnelly said Williams was driven by "greed, power and money."

"She's going to do whatever she wants and get whatever she wants," Donnelly told the jury. "The defendant is out for herself, and no one better get in her way."

As Donnelly spoke to the jury, Williams, who has been held for weeks in the Nassau County jail, sat looking down at her lap.

Williams' attorney, John Carman of Garden City, painted his client as a woman suffering from cancer and exhausted by a divorce battle who was manipulated by a private investigator she had hired.

It was the private investigator, Joseph LaBella, who connected Williams with the would-be hit man, prosecutors have said.

"You will be able to feel the absolute power he had over Susan, and you will realize how he used it," Carman said in his opening statement.

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