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Lawsuit accuses man of drowning wife off Madeira Beach, then covering it up

The suit comes nearly two years after Blaise Gamba died after a boating trip with her husband. She was 37 years old.
Credit: Micha? Chodyra
Photo: Thinkstock

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges a man drowned his wife off the coast of Madeira Beach and made it look like an accident.

The suit comes nearly two years after Blaise Gamba died after a boating trip with her husband William. She was 37 years old.

In the suit, Blaise Gamba’s mother, Nancy Huhta, accuses William Gamba, 37, of an extensive cover-up to make money off his wife’s life insurance policy and their assets.

"He was shocked and speechless, for the claims that were made that just weren't true," said Lucas Flemming, William Gamba's lawyer.

A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said Wednesday the investigation is still active. The sheriff’s office initially reported Blaise Gamba’s Nov. 13, 2016, death as a diving accident.

Nov. 12-13, 2016

On Nov. 12, 2016, “As Blaise Gamba was swimming on the surface, William Gamba intentionally pulled her underwater from below and held her head underwater until she became unresponsive and it appeared that she had drowned,” the lawsuit states.

William Gamba then removed his wife from the water and put her on the boat, according to the suit.

Flemming disputed the allegations against William Gamba. According to Flemming, the couple had asked Huhta to go on the boat with them that day, but she was unable to join her daughter and her daughter's husband.

The Gambas also asked a friend traveling from Orlando to join them on the boat, Flemming said.

Flemming said the friend got held up in traffic, but still planned to meet the couple.

Shortly after, William Gamba flagged down two people – a man and his wife – boating about five miles west of Madeira Beach, according to sheriff’s office.

The man climbed aboard and contacted authorities while William Gamba pretended to tend to his wife’s medical needs, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit said while first responders boarded the boat, William Gamba faked passing out. It also states William Gamba faked a seizure when arriving on land.

First responders took the couple to the Palms of Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg, where Blaise Gamba was pronounced dead the next day.

“William Gamba never suffered a syncopal episode, a head injury or seizure,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, William Gamba faked these conditions to divert attention away from himself and to conceal his own guilt in the premeditated murder of Blaise Gamba.”

William Gamba continued to avoid investigators, ordering law enforcement officers out of his hospital room, saying he was too sick to talk with them, the suit says.

Witnesses told investigators William Gamba seemed more interested in the medical aspects of his wife’s condition and whether law enforcement would investigate his involvement in her death.

William Gamba also refused to unlock his and his wife’s iPhone and iPad for inspection, the suit states.

After Blaise Gamba’s death, William Gamba became “unusually interested in moving forward with her organ donation.”

The suit states even though Blaise Gamba’s lungs were full of water, they were harvested for donation. It claims William Gamba knew the donation may make an autopsy difficult to use in a criminal prosecution.

Flemming responded William Gamba was "unconscious at the time" in the hospital, so his client had no say in which organs were harvested.

"I can't imagine someone faking a seizure and having that go undetected by hospital personnel for a three-day period of time," Flemming said.

The lawsuit goes on to say that William Gamba’s actions were premeditated. On Oct. 30, 2016, the couple took a trip to the Florida Keys. William Gamba told his wife to buy a thick, full-body wetsuit. The thickness of the material prevented bruising or scratching from showing up, the lawsuit says.

It also added that the suit’s buoyancy would make it less likely Blaise Gamba would accidentally drown, especially given her extensive experience swimming, snorkeling and diving.

However, Flemming said there is no way to tie the purchase of the wetsuit to the allegation of premeditation.

“The actions of William Gamba in the days and weeks after the death of his wife were highly inconsistent with those of someone mourning the loss of a spouse,” the suit states.

Flemming said William Gamba keeps in contact with some members of Blaise Gamba's family, who don't believe the allegations stemming from the 17-page lawsuit.

William Gamba’s background

William Gamba is also accused of several cases of fraud and that he had several extramarital affairs.

The suit accuses William Gamba of:

• staging two car accidents he received payments for

• setting another car on fire for insurance payments

• setting a boat on fire for insurance payments

• intentionally throwing himself off a gurney at a New York hospital, which resulted in a six-figure payout.

Blaise Gamba’s assets

The couple’s joint assets included a waterfront home in Madeira Beach he sold in April 2017 for $1,515,000.

The suit states the couple purchased the home in 2013 for $730,000.

Within a few days of his wife’s death, the suit states William Gamba stopped wearing his wedding ring, sold Blaise Gamba’s car and removed every picture of her from their home.

He is also accused of contacting Blaise Gamba’s employer to ask for her bonus, final paycheck and life insurance proceeds.

Blaise Gamba’s life insurance policies listed William Gamba as a primary beneficiary with a total value of more than $1 million, according to the lawsuit.

The suit says William Gamba had his wife’s wedding ring, engagement ring and necklace, along with his own wedding band, appraised for resale around the same time.

What happens next

William Gamba currently lives in Templeton, California, and works as a chief nursing officer at a hospital, according to the suit.

Blaise Gamba worked as a commercial litigation lawyer at Carlton Fields in Tampa. She was a member of the Florida Bar for more than 10 years.

The couple did not have any children together.

Flemming said it is "a difficult time" for his client because it is nearly two years since his wife's death.

Flemming said William Gamba was initially planning to visit Tampa for the annual LifeLink of Florida Service of Remembrance Event. The ceremony commemorates people who lost their lives but donated organs and tissues. Flemming said his client does not plan to attend the Nov. 3 ceremony.

Huhta is requesting a jury trial and is seeking damages.

Flemming said he couldn't see anything short of a trial happening in this case.

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Lawsuit accuses man of drowning wife off Madeira Beach, then framing it by 10News WTSP on Scribd