Md. Lawyer Convicted In Attack on Husband; Wife’s Friend Goes on Trial in Sept.

A Montgomery County Circuit Court jury last night found Bethesda lawyer Elsa D. Newman guilty of conspiring to kill her estranged husband as he lay sleeping in his Bethesda bedroom last January.

The jury deliberated for more than four hours before convicting Newman on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted first- degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree burglary and illegal use of a handgun.

Newman, 49, showed no expression as the verdict was read. She is to be sentenced Oct. 11 and faces the possibility of life in prison.

The man she tried to have killed, Arlen Slobodow, was in the courtroom when the verdict was announced and also appeared calm.

Slobodow, who still suffers health problems as a result of his gunshot wound in the leg, said afterward that he was thankful for the jury’s verdict.

“I’m pleased, pleased for myself and my two children,” Slobodow said, speaking quietly and deliberately for the television cameras. “With this verdict, I’m safer and my children are safer.”

Slobodow, a video producer, was sleeping in his bedroom with his 5- year-old son Jan. 7 when he awoke to feel someone pulling him off the bed, he told jurors during the trial. The masked intruder shot him. In the ensuing struggle, he said, he was able to rip off the ski mask and recognize his alleged attacker — Margery L. Landry, his wife’s best friend and the godmother to his two sons.

“Are you trying to kill me in front of my kids?” he asked her, according to court testimony.

Landry, according to Deputy State’s Attorney Katherine S. Winfree, had an “unusually and eerily close” relationship with Slobodow’s wife, Newman. Landry was Newman’s biggest supporter throughout her ugly custody battle with Slobodow over their sons, which began when the couple separated in 1999.

Newman’s attorney, Barry Helfand, had contended that Newman was a loving mother who was shattered when her two children — then ages 3 and 6 — came to her and said Slobodow had been abusing them during their visits at his home.

A flurry of allegations filed by Newman, with the help of Landry, followed. Landry, 48, was then employed at the State Department as an expert in the office that dealt with parental abductions and international adoption. Slobodow alleged that the two women were coaching the boys.

The court battle culminated in a dramatic custody hearing in September during which Newman’s divorce lawyer told the judge that Newman had repeatedly threatened to kill Slobodow and her children if she did not win custody. The judge gave Slobodow custody of the children and allowed Newman only short, supervised visits.

Fearful she would lose her children for good, Newman then turned to “her best friend, her alter ego,” Landry, Winfree argued during the trial.

“What we tried to do is paint the picture of a woman who, as she incrementally lost access to her children, became more and more desperate,” said State’s Attorney Douglas M. Gansler. “That ultimately led to her decision to take the ultimate act of trying to kill her husband.”

It was Landry who allegedly donned latex gloves and dark clothing and broke into the Bethesda house in the early hours of that snowy morning in January to shoot Slobodow.

“We will never know until that case comes up for trial what exactly happened in that room,”Helfand said yesterday. Landry, who is charged with attempted first-degree murder, is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 23.

“We faced an impossible task,” Helfand said, referring to the fact that he had to defend Newman before Landry’s trial.

“But there’s always hope,” Helfand said, indicating that an appeal is likely.

Yesterday, Winfree predicted victory in the Landry case as well. “The physical evidence is overwhelming,” she said.