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October 17, 2000

Death-row investor fights for share of $2M

Killer spent 10 hours a day reading financial journals

Paul Waldie
National Post

An inmate on death row is trying to block his estranged wife from spending nearly US$2-million he earned trading stocks while in prison.

Scott Blystone, a convict in a Pennsylvania jail who earns 72 a day, claims he learned about high finance by reading The Wall Street Journal and other business magazines for about 10 hours a day. He used to send notes to his wife or broker to direct trades and make other investments.

Blystone, 44, is now in a divorce battle with his wife, Sharon Flora, and he has asked a judge to freeze the couple's assets to prevent her from spending the money. A ruling is expected this month, and until then Ms. Flora, 50, must account for any money she spends.

Ms. Flora, an unemployed massage therapist, says the money belongs to her because she was duped into marrying Blystone with his "sob stories of a bad childhood."

"I do not feel I'm married to him," she told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's a piece of paper I signed. I've never even touched him. And right now I can't believe the rights he has. I don't believe he's entitled to any of my money."

Blystone was broke when he was convicted in 1983 for shooting a hitchhiker, Dalton Smithburger, for $13. Blystone forced Mr. Smithburger to lie down, then said "bye bye" before firing six shots into the back of his head.

He met Ms. Flora when the two became pen pals through the Pan American Indian Association (Blystone converted to native religious traditions while in prison). They married in 1988 in a prison ceremony conducted through a glass partition.

At the time of their marriage, Ms. Flora had about US$150,000 in savings, which she had received from Milton Weihe, a wealthy friend who died in 1998.

"Scott had no interest in studying finances until Milton got sicker and sicker," Ms. Flora said. "I think he was waiting for him to die."

Nonetheless, Ms. Flora gave Blystone authorization to invest her money and he opened an account with Fidelity Investments in 1992.

Blystone said in a note filed in court in July, 1999, that at first he was reluctant to make any trades but his confidence grew as he began to study the markets (he has cable television in his cell).

"From the time we opened the account at Fidelity, until the present, I have been able to make substantial gains each year," he wrote. "Between Jan. 1, 1999, and the present, I have made approximately $450,000." He now values their total assets, including stocks, real estate, cash and gold coins, at US$1.9-million. Fidelity accounts filed in court show his stock portfolio alone is worth US$1.3-million.

Blystone is arguing that under Pennsylvania law he is entitled to a share of the couple's assets. If he wins, prison officials say he can keep the money.

"He's not doing anything wrong," said Sharon D'Elletto, a prison spokeswoman. "He's just an astute person. Like Abe Lincoln, he's self-educated."

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