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Novack murder: Trial begins for wife of Fontainebleau hotel heir

April 24, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • Narcy Novack, shown in a 2010 police photo, is charged along with her brother with orchestrating the killings of her husband, Ben Novack Jr., and her mother-in-law, Bernice Novack.
Narcy Novack, shown in a 2010 police photo, is charged along with her brother… (Broward County (Fla.) Sheriff's…)

He was the heir to a fabulous fortune, who grew up in his father's Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach surrounded by glitz and glamor; she was his wife, who prosecutors say was enraged over his alleged affair with a stripper and accused him of tricking her into getting breast implants she did not want.

On Monday, the woman, Narcy Novack, 54, went on trial in a White Plains, N.Y., courtroom on federal charges stemming from the July 2009 death of her 53-year-old husband, Ben Novack Jr. He was beaten to death with dumbbells and stabbed in the eyes in a Rye Brook, N.Y., hotel room where he was attending an Amway convention. Narcy Novack said she was downstairs eating breakfast at the time of the slaying.

Last April, the FBI also charged Narcy Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 57, with the 2009 slaying of Ben Novack's 86-year-old mother, Bernice Novack, who was killed three months before her son. According to the indictment, the sister and brother were engaged in a sinister campaign to steal the Novack fortune, carrying out "acts that run the gamut from murder to robbery to obstruction of justice — a bloody and corrupt chain of events.”

Both have pleaded not guilty to all the charges, which could put them in prison for life. Four men have pleaded guilty to Ben Novack's murder and are expected to testify that they were hired by the defendants to commit the crime.

Prosecutors allege that Narcy Novack organized her mother-in-law's murder and then her husband's death to ensure that millions of dollars in inheritance came her way. Bernice Novack's death initially was declared an accident, but it was reclassified as a homicide after her son was killed.

As the trial opened Monday, prosecutor Perry Perrone said Narcy Novack was enraged over her husband's alleged affair with Rebecca Bliss, an exotic dancer who is due to testify in the trial.

"It was a personal killing. It was a sadistic killing," he said in opening statements, describing how the defendants didn't just want Ben Novack dead, "they wanted him to suffer," he said.

The defense is trying to point the finger at Narcy Novack's daughter, who would inherit the estate along with her children if Narcy Novack goes to jail. The daughter has not been charged, but "she's the one who has a lot to gain," said Lawrence Sheehan, one of the defense attorneys.

According to the Associated Press, the first witness to take the stand Monday was a retired Fort Lauderdale, Fla., police detective, Steven Palazzo. He told the jury that he had met Narcy Novack in 2002 and that she had told him she underwent surgery to have a broken nose fixed, and "when she woke up she had breast implants."

That encounter followed a domestic incident that included allegations by Ben Novack that his wife had tied him to a chair and stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash along with business papers.

According to the police report, in addition to claiming she had been tricked into getting breast implants, Narcy Novack also accused her husband of keeping photographs of naked women with prosthetic limbs, and complained that one of his other obsessions was Batman memorabilia, including a Batmobile.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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