Widow, her brother charged in killing of Fontainebleau hotel heir
The wife of a Florida travel executive who was beaten to death in a suburban New York hotel let the killers into the room and ...
The New York Times
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — From the moment Ben Novack Jr. was found bludgeoned, bound and gagged inside a hotel suite in a White Plains hotel a year ago, the details of his life and death have grown more peculiar with each disclosure.
His blood-covered body was found on the floor of Room 453 at the Rye Town Hilton, where Novack, 53, was helping run an Amway convention. His face was bound in duct tape, as were his legs, taped below the knees, and his hands, bound behind his back.
A Rolex watch was not taken, but his trademark bracelet, with B-E-N spelled in diamonds, was gone. Hotel records showed no one had entered the hotel room with a key before the killing of Novack, whose father founded the famed Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, Fla.
A week after the slaying, an anonymous letter, written in Spanish, surfaced, saying that Novack's mother, who had died three months earlier, had also been murdered.
There were police reports and court testimony about Novack's comic-book memorabilia — his collection of Batman-themed material was said to be the second largest in the country and to include a full-size replica of the Batmobile — and his taste in pornography featuring women missing limbs.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors and local authorities announced the indictment of the four people they say plotted the attack, including the woman who had been a suspect all along: his wife, a former stripper he had previously accused of threatening to kill him. The motive, authorities said, was seizing control of his fortune.
Novack's wife, Narcisa Veliz Novack, known as Narcy, was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 56; and another relative, Denis Ramirez, 36, were arrested in Brooklyn. A fourth suspect, Joel Gonzalez, 25, who was believed to have been hired to kill Novack, remained at large.
Narcy Novack, 53, was arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale and ordered held without bail. Veliz and Ramirez pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in White Plains. Bail was denied for Veliz; Ramirez did not request bail.
The four defendants were charged with interstate domestic violence, stalking and conspiracy to commit interstate domestic violence and stalking.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, called Novack's death "a savage killing" as he announced the charges Thursday in White Plains. "The plot that led to the death of Ben Novack," he said, "was a family affair."
He said investigators are also looking into the death of Ben Novack's mother, Bernice Novack, 86, of Fort Lauderdale. Her death was ruled an accident, although she had a broken jaw and blood was found on her car and the walls of her house.
The indictment in Ben Novack's slaying says Narcy Novack opened the door to two killers who beat and slashed her husband, and then gave them a pillow to hold over his face as he was being assaulted.
On the day her husband was killed, Narcy Novack told the police that she went down to breakfast about 7 a.m., leaving him asleep. When she returned 40 minutes later, she said, she found him bound and bloody on the floor.
The Westchester County district attorney, Janet DiFiore, described the killing as motivated by greed, saying Narcy Novack "was intent on eliminating her husband and taking his family fortune for her own."
Under her husband's will, Narcy Novack stands to inherit his entire fortune. If she were to lose the estate, most of it would go instead to her daughter, May Abad, and trusts for Abad's two teenage sons.
Ben Novack grew up inside the Fontainebleau, the Miami Beach landmark founded and built by his father and opened in 1954. The hotel has been used in such Hollywood films as "Goldfinger" and "Scarface" and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Novack's aunt Maxine Fiel remembered her nephew enjoying the perks of luxury-hotel living, which included trick-or-treating trips in a chauffeured limousine, but for all its opulence, she described his childhood as "pretty lonely."
Novack amassed a dizzying array of Batman memorabilia and other collectibles that was packed inside the couple's home "floor to ceiling," according to Henry Zippay Jr., one of Narcy Novack's estate attorneys. "They were avid collectors of everything that interested them. His focus was on Batman, primarily."
Bharara said the estate, which in addition to the Batman trove included several homes in Florida, boats and vintage automobiles, was worth $5 million to $6 million.
When Novack met his future wife, a native of Ecuador, she was a stripper, according to The Miami Herald. The couple had a stormy relationship that included accusations of spousal abuse. The two married in 1991. In 2002, Novack claimed his wife orchestrated a home-invasion robbery that left him tied to a chair for 24 hours. She said the robbery was part of an elaborate sex game. No charges were filed. She once claimed her husband broke her nose.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.