Troubles were mounting in 1989 for
Konstantinos “Kosta” Fotopoulos, but the Florida pool hall owner had
what he thought was a foolproof plan to wrap up all of his difficulties
into a single package that would make everything go away.
First of all, there was the unwelcome attention the 28-year-old Greek
immigrant was receiving from the United States Secret Service. In 1987,
Kosta bought $100,000 in counterfeit $100 bills and had been passing
them around the southeast United States. The feds had identified him as
a “person of interest” and he felt it was just a matter of time before
they accumulated enough evidence for an indictment.
Complicating that situation was
Kevin Ramsey, a 19-year-old ex-employee in Kosta’s pool hall, Top Shots,
who was dropping hints about blackmailing Kosta with his knowledge of
Kosta’s counterfeiting operation.
Then there was Fotopoulos’s failing marriage with his wife, Lisa.
Lisa had inherited a small fortune when her father died and was
successfully building the family’s boardwalk business, Joyland Amusement
Center, in Daytona Beach. Kosta was about $20,000 in debt in October
1989 and reliant on his wife’s largess to avoid bankruptcy and the loss
of his business.
When Lisa discovered that Kosta
was having an affair with 20-year-old Deidre Hunt, a bartender at Top
Shots, she demanded that he end the affair and fire Deidre.
Rather than admit his faithlessness and accede to his wife’s ultimatum,
Kosta denied that he was having the affair. That denial made little
sense to Lisa, who had nearly wrecked her car chasing Kosta as he left
Deidre’s apartment — a love den he was renting.
Lisa subsequently announced that
she was going to seek a divorce. She reminded him on a daily basis that
he would receive nothing when the marriage ended.
Her threats and declarations struck at the heart of Kosta’s oversized
ego and forced him to take action.
Beyond the fact that it
represented a violation of his marital vows, Kosta’s relationship with
Deidre Hunt was bad for a number of reasons. Kosta was abusive both
mentally and physically.
For Deidre, however, this was par
for the course. Back home in New Hampshire, Deidre’s mother had been
diagnosed with several mental illnesses, including multiple personality
disorder with 11 distinct personalities. A high school dropout, Lisa had
been the victim of sexual abuse when she left home and headed to Daytona
Beach to start a new life after serving a six-month sentence for
participating in an armed robbery.
However, like many undereducated and disadvantaged teens, Deidre found
that starting over was not as easy as it sounded. When she wandered into
the Top Shots looking for work, she was homeless. Her history and her
desperation made her an easy target for a manipulator like Kosta.
And Kosta was merciless.
In the course of the police
investigation of Fotopoulos, authorities came to believe that Kosta
inflicted “ritualistic torture on Hunt by cutting her with razors,
sucking her blood, throwing knifes, burning her with cigarettes and an
iron, poking her with needles, and threatening her with a gun.”
During a later court hearing after
Fotopoulos’s plan fell apart, the prosecutor in his case summed up how
Kosta treated his mistress.
There was “a pattern of intimidation and terror inflicted upon the
witness to terrorize her and break down her will ultimately and obtain
complete control of her,” the State of Florida alleged. “They had an
impact on [Hunt], in effect, paralyzed her, stopped her from feeling she
could go to anyone or talk to anyone or escape from the circumstances,
and that she had a growing paranoia that [Fotopoulos] had utter control
of her life and she could not escape.”
The result of Kosta’s treatment of
Deidre was that when the time came to start killing, he had a willing
On October 20, 1989, Kosta, Deidre and Kevin Ramsey drove out to a
remote shooting range where Ramsey believed he was going to be inducted
into an ultra-secret “Hunter-Killer Club.” Kosta had managed to convince
Ramsey that he was a contract assassin who worked for the mob and for
the CIA and that by joining the Hunter-Killer Club, Ramsey would also
become a hitman. Kosta claimed to have killed eight people.
Deidre later told police that she had gone with Kosta that night
intending to be initiated into the club, as well. While Kosta and Deidre
unloaded a .22 rifle and an AK-47 from the trunk of Kosta’s car, Ramsey
was told to scout ahead to make sure there was no one around. According
to Deidre, it was at that time that Kosta told her that at most two
people would be making the return trip that night. He told her that if
she wanted to make it through the night, she would have to kill Ramsey.
The two prospective killers caught
up with Ramsey and Kosta explained how the ritual would proceed. In
addition to the weapons, Kosta carried a camcorder that would document
the initiation. Each of the members of the club would commit a murder
that would be videotaped. The tapes would be exchanged among the members
as “insurance” to prevent anyone from going to the police in the future.
Reaching a remote clearing, Kosta told Deidre to tie Kevin to a nearby
tree. Possibly believing that this part of the ritual to prove his
trust, Kevin was silent when Kosta started the videotape.
The 57-second tape is shocking in
its brutality. The tape opens with a single flashlight shining on the
face of Deidre Hunt, who stands a few yards away from the tree where
Ramsey stands facing her, his arms wrapped behind him and tied.
A man’s voice, later positively identified as Kosta’s utters a single
word: “OK.”“Don’t shine it in my eyes,” Ramsey says.
The shot widens so that Deidre and
Kevin can both be seen, the flashlight bathing the scene in an eerie
glow. Deidre points a .22-caliber handgun at Ramsey and with just a
little pause, pulls the trigger three times, a quick double-tap and
follow-up shot all hitting Ramsey in the chest.
Kevin lifts one of his legs and
“God,” he says. Then he slumps forward, the ropes holding him up.
Deidre next walks up to the unconscious teen, grabs him by the hair and
fires a fourth shot into his temple.
The recording stops.
After turning off the video
recorder, Kosta picked up his AK-47 and fired a single 7.62mm full-metal
jacketed slug into Kevin’s head to ensure he was dead.
Leaving the teen’s body to the forces of nature, Kosta and Deidre left
the woods and returned to Daytona Beach.
The first part of Kosta’s plan
came off like clockwork. Not only had Kosta rid himself of Kevin Ramsey,
who had courted death by trying to blackmail him, he had his own
extortion material to hold over Deidre Hunt. Kosta intended to use that
leverage to get Deidre to help assassinate his wife.
* * *
The first rays of sunshine were just beginning to turn the black skies
to navy blue over the horizon on November 4, 1989 when 18-year-old Bryan
Chase cut through the screen of a first-floor window in the home shared
by Kosta and Lisa Fotopoulos.
Armed with a .22-caliber automatic, Chase skulked through the silent
house to where Kosta and Lisa lay sleeping. Acting on the promise of a
$5,000 payoff from Kosta, Chase, a troubled teen who spent his days
loitering with the beach bums on the Daytona Beach arcade, was making
his third attempt in as many days to kill Lisa. The previous attempts
had failed when he was frightened off by neighbors and when he showed up
at the home without a knife to cut the window screen.
After an angry confrontation
earlier in the day with Kosta, Bryan managed to avoid the neighbors and
enter the house without being seen. Entering the Fotopoulos’s bedroom,
he could make out Lisa and Kosta sleeping. Bryan edged close to Lisa’s
side of the bed, pointed the automatic at her head and fired. The bullet
entered Lisa’s forehead and, as bullets sometimes do, skidded from one
side of her skull to the other, hugging the bone and coming to rest
above her left eye.
Miraculously, the shot not only failed to kill Lisa, it did only minor
damage to her brain. Bryan squeezed the trigger a second time, but the
weapon had jammed and no shot was fired.
Then it was time for Kosta’s part.
Reaching beneath the bed, he pulled out a 9mm SIG-Sauer P226 and blew
Bryan Chase away. The teenage, would-be hitman died on the floor of the
Kosta’s 911 call revealed just the
right mixture of fear, adrenaline and panic that a homeowner who is
forced to shoot an intruder would have.
The preliminary determination by the police was just what Kosta had
hoped: Lisa was shot by a burglar who was in turn killed by Kosta. The
plan hadn’t worked perfectly, of course. Lisa was still alive, but that
was a problem for another day. As she lay in her hospital bed — doctors
would be unable to remove the bullet for fear of causing more damage —
Lisa told police what she remembered about the attack.
The evening had started normally, she said, with Kosta heading out to
the backyard to bury a large black bag just before they retired for the
night. Lisa said she didn’t consider that unusual because Kosta was a
conspiracy “nut” who was constantly burying this or that.
She told the police about the
The next thing she knew, she was awakened by a searing pain in her head
and Kosta was talking on the phone to police, telling them that he had
killed an intruder in his home.
Meanwhile, Kosta and Deidre were
discussing the possibility to delivering a bomb hidden in a bouquet of
flowers to hospital.
“Lisa had to die,” Deidre later told prosecutors. “She just had to die.”
Back at the scene of the crime, investigators were beginning to question
whether Chase’s death wasn’t part of a larger plan. Lisa had mentioned a
curious incident that occurred about a week before when a young man
attempted to rob her at the Joyland Amusement Center. Armed with a
pistol, the man tried to force Lisa into a small, windowless room at the
arcade, but she escaped by darting between his legs. The would-be robber
fled without taking anything.
Looking at the clues, police noted
that Bryan managed to cut through the one window on the ground level
that was not connected to an alarm system. They also questioned why a
burglar would shoot a sleeping woman yet not fire at the homeowner with
As a burglar, Chase was unconvincing. Police noted that he had to walk
past an expensive stereo system and the bedrooms of Lisa’s mother and
brother before reaching her bedroom.
Before closing the case,
investigators decided to look a little deeper.
They didn’t have to look very hard.
When the newspapers broke the story of how Kosta had killed an intruder
in his home, 20-year-old Mike Cox, a friend of Deidre Hunt and Bryan
Chase, was on the phone that day to police. He told investigators how
Deidre had introduced him to Kosta who offered him $10,000 to kill his
wife. Cox was convinced that he would have ended up like Chase.
Armed with this information, the
Daytona Beach police brought Deidre in for an interview. Over the course
of two hours, Deidre told everything she knew, including how Kevin
Ramsey was killed.
She also revealed that Lisa had been targeted by hitmen five times over
the past several weeks but that every attempt had failed. Kosta had
wanted her murdered at a Halloween party, but the crowd scared off that
would-be killer and another time the hitman’s car would not start,
throwing a wrench into the plan to stage a car accident and kill her
Out of curiosity, the police dug
up the black bag Kosta buried the night of Chase’s attack. Inside it was
the AK-47 and .22 used to kill Kevin Ramsey.
Police quickly arrested Kosta Fotopoulos and after Deidre led
authorities to Ramsey’s remains, she and Kosta were charged with two
counts of first degree murder and numerous conspiracy charges.
The already-bizarre case still had
a few surprises left, however.
Faced with the damning videotape, Deidre decided to throw herself on the
mercy of the court and in May 1990, she withdrew her not guilty plea and
pleaded guilty to two capital murder charges. The judge agreed to hold
off on the penalty phase until after she testified against Kosta. By
cooperating, Deidre hoped to avoid a date with Old Sparky, Florida’s
“The prosecutor reiterated that
the State was in no way waiving its intent to seek the death penalty,
that there had been no backroom negotiations and no understanding that
the State would not seek the death penalty,” the Florida Supreme Court
would write later. “Hunt’s attorney explained that he had discussed the
plea at length with Hunt and that they both agreed that ‘this plea and
her offer to testify and cooperate in view of the facts and
circumstances is really the only sensible and logical choice under this
However, as Kosta’s trial grew
nearer, Deidre balked at testifying and the state moved ahead with its
sentencing hearing. Over the course of several days, the judge listened
to mitigating and aggravating testimony about whether Deidre was a
blood-thirsty, ice-in-the-veins killer or an abused and emotionally
troubled young woman.
The highlight of the sentencing hearing was when Deidre’s mother took
the stand and said that she did not want her daughter to get the death
penalty, but, shrugging her shoulders as if writing off a lost bauble,
Carol Hunt added, “if it happens, it happens.”
When her time came, Deidre took responsibility for her acts and
She stood before the judge in an orange jail jumpsuit, quivering with
nervous energy, repeatedly wiping her palms on her clothes. Then for 13
minutes, Deidre told her side of things.
“I take responsibility for my
actions but I was a non-willing participant in these crimes,” she said
tearfully. She maintained that Kosta had left her no choice. “If I had
not done it, I would have died at the hands of Kosta Fotopoulos.”
Killing Kevin Ramsey was the “most disgusting, repulsive scene I ever
saw in my life,” she said. “But I chose life, even with the horror,
terror, fear and pain, and disgusting and degrading torture at this
Finally, to the families of Ramsey
and Chase, Deidre apologized.
“I want to express my sympathy and total compassion for what you’ve been
The judge was unmoved and
sentenced her to death twice.
With nothing left to lose, Deidre testified against Kosta, who was also
convicted and sentenced to death.
A murder-for-hire plot always
generates press, and the freakish case of Deidre Hunt and Konstantinos
Fotopoulos attracted the worst. Throw in a lawyer with a twisted sense
of ethics and the result is Deidre Hunt being allowed to retract her
guilty plea, a new trial, and a release from death row.
It happened in 1990, shortly after Deidre and Kosta had been convicted
and sent off to prison.
Even with her guilty pleas,
Deidre’s death sentences were automatically appealed. Peter Niles, the
court-appointed attorney who had represented Deidre in court was
handling her appeal and contacted the warden at Broward Correctional
Institution to arrange an attorney-client meeting.
He told the warden that he had made arrangements with the prosecutor and
the judge to videotape Deidre at BCI regarding testimony concerning
Kosta. Niles indicated he would bring a law clerk and a cameraman to
assist with the videotaping. The visit was approved.
However, when Niles and his crew
sat down with Deidre, he advised his client that they were not working
on her case, but the people he had brought with him were from the
tabloid TV show “A Current Affair.”
Niles told Deidre that he was not being compensated for bringing the
crew into the prison, and that she would not be paid for the interview.
In fact, Niles had been promised $5,000 from the show’s producers if he
set up the interview and a story subsequently aired. The deal had been
in the works for six months, meaning that Niles was negotiating with “A
Current Affair” at the same time he was representing Deidre Hunt before
The piece ran under the headline
When the revelation surfaced in 1993, the judge who heard Deidre’s
guilty pleas had no choice but to grant her motion to rescind them.
“This court is legally obligated to find that when Mr. Niles counseled
the defendant to enter guilty pleas, he was operating under a conflict
of interest,” the judge ruled.
Of course, everyone except Deidre Hunt was livid.
“Niles engaged in extremely serious violations of the Rules Regulating
the Florida Bar with lies and misrepresentations to his client, as well
as to BCI, the public, and the legal profession as a whole through a
sensational and derogatory media interview,” the Florida Supreme Court
wrote, suspending the lawyer for a year.