Prosecutor: Woman charged in NY killing of hotel heir husband also accused in Fla. death

By Curt Anderson, AP
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Prosecutor accuses hotel heir wife in Fla. death

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A woman already charged with orchestrating the brutal slaying of her wealthy hotel heir husband in New York was accused by a prosecutor Wednesday of also plotting the beating death of her elderly mother-in-law in Florida, all in hopes of reaping millions of dollars from their wills.

Narcy Novack, 53, and her brother hired two men to assault her 86-year-old mother-in-law, who was beaten with a monkey wrench at her Fort Lauderdale home in April 2009, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Jacobson said at a bail hearing for Novack involving the New York charges.

Three months later, her husband Ben Novack was beaten to death at a suburban New York hotel with dumbbells carried by assailants, one of whom also gouged out his eyes with a utility knife upon her orders, Jacobson said.

“In Spanish, she urged them to cut out his eyes and finish him,” he said.

Narcy Novack’s attorney, Howard Tanner, insisted she was innocent of her husband’s killing and had nothing to do with her mother-in-law’s death.

“They want to strengthen their case by implicating her in a so-called homicide that has no basis in fact,” Tanner said.

Ben Novack’s father founded Miami Beach’s famed Fontainebleau Hotel, where the family lived in the penthouse and hobnobbed with movie stars, singers and even gangsters. Ben Novack had one of the world’s largest collections of Batman memorabilia — including a replica of the Batmobile from the 1960s TV show, figurines and costumes — and his mother left her estate to him. Narcy Novack stood to inherit about $10 million after her husband’s death.

In Florida, neither Narcy Novack nor her brother, 56-year-old Cristobal Veliz, have been charged with the elderly woman’s killing. Despite a broken jaw and blood smeared on her car and on walls in the house, Bernice Novack’s death had twice been ruled an accident by the Broward County medical examiner.

Jacobson said federal investigators asked the Westchester County, N.Y., medical examiner to look at the evidence, and the new conclusion was reached.

“She died after she was struck several times,” Jacobson said, adding that there were also unidentified witnesses to the crime.

Westchester County officials declined Wednesday to discuss the new report or release it, citing the ongoing investigation. Fort Lauderdale police have stood by their decision that Bernice Novack’s death was accidental, and have declined comment since the charges against Narcy Novack in her husband’s death were unveiled last week.

In the New York case, Narcy Novack, her brother and two other men are charged with conspiring to commit interstate domestic violence and stalking in Ben Novack’s death. All face a potential life sentence if convicted.

An indictment accused Narcy Novack of letting the killers into the room and handing them a pillow to put over his face at the Hilton Rye Town in Rye Brook, 20 miles north of Manhattan. The Novacks were there for an Amway convention July 12, 2009.

Jacobson released other evidence in the hotel killing. He said a still-unidentified male accomplice in Ben Novack’s killing has already pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges and is cooperating with investigators.

That informant, he said, implicated Narcy Novack in the deaths of both her husband and her mother-in-law.

Jacobson also said cell phone records put all the suspects at the hotel the day Ben Novack was slain, and that after her husband’s death, she attempted to access a Florida bank safe-deposit box by claiming he would come by later to authorize it.

He also said she gave police a misleading account about a piece of sunglasses found at the crime scene, saying they were hers when they belonged to the confidential informant.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Narcy Novack was ordered held without bail until trial and agreed to be transferred to New York to face charges there.

Two of the other suspects are being held in New York without bail. The third, 25-year-old Joel Gonzalez, turned himself in last week in Miami and faces a bail hearing Thursday. Jacobson said Gonzalez confessed to taking part in the Ben Novack killing and implicated Narcy Novack.

Associated Press writer Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains, N.Y., contributed to this story.

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