Mary Jo Buttafuoco believed her husband when he said he’d had nothing to do with 17-year-old Amy Fisher.
Joey Buttafuoco’s bride even stayed with him after his teenaged mistress shot her in the face on this day, May 19, in 1992. Presuming Fisher to be lying, Mary Jo had previously told reporters, “If I really believed Joey Buttafuoco had an affair with Amy Fisher, I’d cut his testicles off.”
But somehow, the 36-year-old auto mechanic managed to keep his testicles, and his wife, after he admitted to sleeping with the high-school senior who moonlighted as a call girl. He pleaded guilty to statutory rape, since Fisher had been 16 at the time.
Tabloids seized on the story, dubbing Fisher the “Long Island Lolita” and Joey the “Heartthrob of Sleaze.” Mary Jo found herself stalked by paparazzi hoping to get their own shot at her. One photographer, from the New York Daily News, camped out in front of the Buttafuoco home round-the-clock, according to TIME, in hopes “that the victimized wife, home from the hospital, would come out onto the deck for a moment of sunshine — and an unintended photo opportunity.”
The woman whom TIME called “tenaciously patient wife Mary Jo” stood by her man again in 1995, when he was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover cop in Los Angeles. Her response to questions about his arrest: “My husband is a very friendly guy.”
Only in 2003, after 22 years of marriage and more than a decade of reconstructive surgeries and painful recovery from the shooting, which left a bullet permanently lodged just outside her brain, did Mary Jo finally believe some of what she’d read about Joey — and file for divorce. Concluding that he, not Amy Fisher, was the real sociopath, she penned a book titled Getting It Through My Thick Skull: Why I Stayed, What I Learned, and What Millions of People Involved with Sociopaths Need to Know.
Her faith in people remained such that she publicly forgave Fisher and expressed disappointment that the troubled teen had gone on to work in the porn industry. Fisher has offered less concern for the woman she permanently scarred.
“I feel no sympathy for Mary Jo the multimillionaire,” she told a reporter in 2008. “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.”
Read the full story from 1992, here in the TIME archives: Read All About Lolita!