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Cleared of Murder but Her Nightmare Hangs On : Ginny Foat--the Whispers Continue

December 29, 1985|JULIE AMPARANO | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Ginny Foat still wakes up in the middle of the night, sweating, afraid to open her eyes because she thought she would find the bars that shattered her life a few years ago had returned.

Even though it has been two years since she was cleared of the 1965 slaying of an Argentine businessman, Moises Chayo, Foat said the nightmares have not stopped and the whispers accusing her of murder continue. She can hear police sirens and the sound of helicopters that surrounded her at Los Angeles International Airport and the voices of authorities that accused her in January, 1983, of luring Chayo from a bar where she had worked as a go-go dancer and killing him for his wallet.

Foat lives in Marin County, north of San Francisco, works at Legal Advocates for Women and talks of attending law school and of opening a bed-and-breakfast hotel catering to businesswomen and of entering politics.

"Getting involved in politics would be easier for someone like me," she said in an interview. "I wouldn't have to worry about skeletons coming out of my closet. I've already written about them myself."

$270,000 Bill

In her book, "Never Guilty, Never Free," Foat, 44, said her former husband, Jack Sidote, traded immunity for information that he said would prove that she, not he, had masterminded the slaying with a tire iron. Proceeds of the Random House book will help cover the $270,000 bill for Foat's defense. Movie rights have been purchased by actress Marlo Thomas.

"It's still very painful to think about," Foat said. "Even after I had divorced him and thought I had managed to get away from his severe beatings and cruelty, he somehow was holding my life in his hands all over again."

It was the second time in less than six years that Sidote had implicated her in a murder and put her behind bars.

The first time came in 1977, seven years after she had left him, she said. Foat said she gathered enough nerve to leave Sidote after he was jailed and convicted of manslaughter.

Released From Prison

This July, he was granted a release from the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, where he had been serving a 15-year term for robbery. He had had a 25-year sentence for robbing and killing a man at Lake Tahoe, Nev. He had been paroled from a 10-year term for voluntary manslaughter in that case, leaving the 15-year robbery sentence.

In 1977, Foat slowly began to put her life together after Sidote's incarceration. She remarried, became a businesswoman, political activist and a feminist movement leader.

However, in May, 1977, Sidote began haunting her. He accused her of murdering a man she said she had "never seen, never spoken to and certainly never robbed or killed" 12 years before in Nevada. The charges were eventually dismissed.

"Once again, I was left to reconstruct my life," Foat said.

She became the California chapter president of the National Organization for Women and was considered an emerging force in Democratic Party politics. Then her life came to a skidding halt when Sidote accused her of murdering Chayo in 1983. The accusation sent shock waves through the NOW ranks and membership began dropping at a time when the movement was going strong. But she was acquitted by a New Orleans jury, and returned to California in November, 1983.

'This Vicious Man'

"Even though I wasn't convicted, this vicious man managed to put a rift in NOW and put the word 'murderess' after my name," Foat said. "It's no longer 'Ginny Foat, a leader in the women's movement,' but 'Ginny Foat, acquitted of murder.' Society has allowed this man to do that to me."

Foat said her book has been criticized for taking a battered wife's perspective rather than a feminist's viewpoint.

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