- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

FREDERICK, Md. — A woman convicted of shooting her best friend’s estranged husband after breaking into his Bethesda home testified yesterday that she acted alone in the hope of protecting her godchildren from incest.

Margery Lemb Landry, who is serving a 20-year sentence, testified at the trial of Elsa D. Newman, who is charged with conspiring to murder Mrs. Newman’s husband, Arlen J. Slobodow.

Landry told jurors that she went to Mr. Slobodow’s house hoping to collect evidence of child pornography and was carrying a handgun for protection.

“I wasn’t trying to kill him,” she said.

She testified that when she found Mr. Slobodow sleeping with his 5-year-old son, a tussle followed and the gun went off twice, wounding Mr. Slobodow in the leg.

Under direct questioning by defense attorney Barry Helfand, Landry denied having plotted with Mrs. Newman. She said that when she told Mrs. Newman earlier that night that she planned to go to Mr. Slobodow’s house, Mrs. Newman responded, “You need to stay away from him.”

Landry, a former State Department worker, pleaded guilty to assault, burglary and reckless endangerment in September 2002.

Mrs. Newman, 52, a lawyer and former assistant attorney general for Pennsylvania, was convicted of conspiracy in August 2002. But the Maryland Court of Appeals ordered a retrial in December because the trial court had improperly allowed testimony from her former divorce attorney that he had heard her discuss plans to kill Mr. Slobodow.

Mrs. Newman and Landry are best friends and former college roommates. The two women had accused Mr. Slobodow of sexually abusing the boys, but the charges weren’t proven, according to evidence heard by jurors.

Earlier, prosecutors called their last witness, a Montgomery County plastic surgeon whose child-custody case gained worldwide attention.

The witness, Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, testified that she had advised Mrs. Newman that killing was an option — albeit the worst one — for resolving her custody dispute.

“Resorting to violence is a terrible, terrible thing to do,” Dr. Morgan testified. But in the end, she said,

“You have to be aware of what you’re dealing with and follow your soul.”

Dr. Morgan spent two years in jail in the late 1980s for defying a court order to allow her ex-husband to visit their daughter. She said the girl’s father had sexually abused the child, although the charges never were proven.

Dr. Morgan said Mrs. Newman first contacted her in 1998 or 1999. She testified that they met in person three times in 2001, including at an event about three weeks before the shooting.

Dr. Morgan said Mrs. Newman had expressed concern that Mr. Slobodow might molest their two sons, but she said Mrs. Newman never indicated she planned to have him killed.

The defense opened its case with Eileen F. King, local regional director of a nonprofit child-advocacy organization, Justice for Children. She testified that Mrs. Newman contacted her organization in early 2001, seeking help in her custody fight.

Miss King said Mrs. Newman seemed to be trying to work within the system to resolve the dispute.

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