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BEHIND BARS : The Odyssey of Buddy Jacobson: Horses, Models and a Murder Sentence

January 10, 1988|BILL CHRISTINE | Times Staff Writer

"It would be terrible to spend my last days with this still over my head," Jacobson said last week.

Jacobson's mother is 84 and lives downstate. She is well enough to visit but doesn't know about her son's cancer, and Jacobson won't allow her to come here.

Jacobson's mother had three brothers--Hirsch, Sidney and Eugene Jacobs--who were horse trainers. Hirsch Jacobs used to win races in clusters, as his nephew later would, and he was elected into the sport's Hall of Fame in 1958.

When Buddy Jacobson was 11, he began working at the barn for Eugene Jacobs. He took out his first trainer's license at 21, and from the start he thumbed his nose at racing's bluebloods.

He said he learned little from his uncles and that the game was not complicated. He decried the importance of jockeys in winning races and he wheeled and dealed so much with claiming horses that even his owners couldn't keep up.

One of them sued Jacobson for $275,000 over the sale of some horses. In 1969, Jacobson led a backstretch movement on behalf of better working conditions and pension benefits that closed racing at Aqueduct for nine days.

For the man who had won 509 races from 1963-65 and who had won five New York training titles, the two-week strike was virtually the end of his training career. Later that year, Jacobson, charged with fraud and misrepresentation by an owner, was suspended for 45 days by New York racing officials. For almost five years after that, he was denied stall space for his horses at New York tracks.

"I don't want to use the word, (but) it's what Jacobson did, it's his standing in the field," said Jack Dreyfus, then chairman of the board of the New York Racing Assn. "If we accept Buddy, then we have to turn down people (other stall applicants) who don't have this on their reputations."

Jacobson filed an $8-million lawsuit against the NYRA, which he lost, but in 1975 he was issued stall space again.

By then, Jacobson had developed other interests. He bought a high-rise apartment building in Manhattan--the place where Melanie Cain's new lover, John Tupper, was later shot four times and apparently tortured through multiple stabbings.

When Jacobson was brought to trial for the murder of the 34-year-old Tupper, Manhattan real estate records showed that he had sold several properties for more than $3.3 million and had also bought additional buildings for more than $1.4 million.

His relationship with Melanie Cain, a small-town girl from Illinois, led to the formation of the My Fair Lady modeling agency. Jacobson also bought a ski lodge in Vermont.

Jacobson lied to Cain and other women about his age, saying he was much younger. He introduced his two sons as his younger brothers.

When Jacobson walked out of the prison in Brooklyn, waiting for him with the getaway car was Audrey Barrett, a 22-year-old model and part-time Bible teacher.

"There's nothing wrong with going for women much younger than you," Jacobson said the other day. "In Manhattan, you see it all the time."

He started to say that Barrett was the only one he ever loved. "Nah, I guess that's not right," he finally said. "I loved every girl I was ever with."

On the morning of Aug. 6, 1978, John Tupper was killed, either in Jacobson's penthouse apartment or in the apartment of another tenant, who disappeared and was arrested on drug charges several years later, becoming a witness for the federal government in narcotics investigations.

A policeman said that what was done to Tupper was enough to have killed him 10 times. The body was taken to a dump in the Bronx--about a 25-minute drive from Jacobson's building--and was found in a burning wooden crate late the same afternoon.

Cain, who reportedly was out of the building, signing a lease for a new apartment in which she and Tupper were moving, said that when she returned, Jacobson had stopped the elevator and barricaded the stairway to the floor where the murder had occurred.

Jacobson, maintaining that he served as the superintendent and even did the janitorial work for the buildings he owned, said he closed off the accesses because he was cleaning up some paint that had been spilled on an outside carpet, and didn't want people traipsing through the mess.

Jacobson said that he was also doing work that day at a hospital building that he had bought for conversion into an apartment complex.

According to Jacobson, the doorman at a building next to the murder scene could have confirmed what time he left--which would have placed Jacobson away from the building at the time of the murder.

That was not brought out at the trial. Witness Estelle Carattini testified that she had seen Jacobson at the dump in the Bronx late in the afternoon. She also identified his yellow 1974 Cadillac.

Jacobson also said that he and his attorney, Jack Evseroff, argued about the lawyer's fee just before the start of the trial.

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