PROVO, Utah -- Promoter Lawrence Shiller testified today an uncle of Gary Gilmore assured him part of an advance for rights to the murderer's life story would be given to the widows of Gilmore's victims.
Shiller, who insisted upon referring to the widows as 'heirs,' testified that prison rules forced him to pay money to Gilmore's uncle, Vern Damico, rather than to Gilmore. He said the prison would allow Gilmore to have no more than $1,000 in his account.
Shiller said when he paid the first advance of $50,000 to Damico - which included $2,500 for legal fees -- 'Damico assured me he was going to provide for the victims.'
The promoter is one of a handful of defendants being sued by the widows of two men gunned down by Gilmore during two 1976 robberies.
They are seeking more than $1 million in royalties from the Emmy-winning movie, 'The Executioner's Song,' which is based on Gilmore's life and his execution that ended a decade-long moratorium on capital punishment in the United States.
The widows claim in the lawsuit that Gilmore's lawyers and relatives conspired to keep the royalties and advances out of Gilmore's estate -- which kept them from acquiring the funds as the result of wrongful death judgments.
Shiller said when he first asked Gilmore if lawyer Robert Moody - also a defendant -- was his agent, Gilmore became angry. ''My only agent is Uncle Vern. He's my only representative,'' he quoted Gilmore as saying.
He said separate agreements were drawn up with the family of Nicole Baker, Gilmore's girl friend. Miss Baker's sister, April, was with Gilmore the night he shot and killed Max Jensen, 24. He said the Baker family received from $30,000 to $32,000.
In Tuesday's testimony, Jensen's widow, Colleen Jensen Ostergaard, testified she was paid $20,000 by Lawrence Shiller, who is president of New Ingot Co., which is also a defendant in the case.
Both Shiller and New Ingot are among six defendants in a conspiracy case.
'I was relying on the advice of my attorney when I signed the contract (with Shiller),' she said.
Mrs. Ostergaard has since replaced that attorney and is now being represented by William Stegall.
Stegall tried to question the widow about her feelings at the time of the negotiations with Shiller. But the promoters' attorney objected, saying she could only be questioned on the terms of the contract. Judge David Sam upheld Attorney Michael Hansen's objection.
Gilmore was convicted in the July 1976 murder of Bennie Bushnell. But he later admitted to also killing Jensen. Gilmore refused to appeal his death sentence and was executed by a firing squad on Jan. 17, 1977.
Mrs. Ostergaard said she received a contract from attorneys representing Vernon Damico, Gilmore's uncle, that would have given her and her child a 20 percent share in profits from the made-for-television movie.
Damico, the Provo law firm of Christensen, Taylor and Moody which represented Gilmore, and Charles Fries Productions are the other defendants in the suit in Fourth District Court.
However, the widow said she did not sign that agreement. She did approve one contract from Shiller which provided for a payment of only $20,000, with a promise that she would not sue for additional monies.
Mrs. Ostergaard testified she thought the contract with Shiller was only for the rights to use 'my life story and for my loss of privacy' in the Emmy award winning movie, and that profits from the movie would go into Gilmore's estate.
She has already won a $620,072 wrongful death judgment against Gilmore's estate, but has yet to collect on that ruling because there is no money in the estate. The other widow, Deborah Jean Bushnell, and her two children have won a similar judgement of $567,139 against the executed killer's empty estate.
Both widows claim the promoters of the movie conspired to keep profits from going to Gilmore's estate.
Damico testified Gilmore wanted the widows and their children 'taken care of' through the sale of the rights to his life story.
The uncle testified an agreement approved by Gilmore would have divided the profits from his life story into five equal parts, with a 20 percent share each going to the families of the two victims.
'As far as I knew, Mrs. Jensen was happy with that contract. I did not know until recently that she had not sign the contract,' Damico said.
But the uncle admitted he knew the widows and their children had not received any money from the contract approved by Gilmore shortly before he was executed.