2 Trials Possible In S.Fla. Hotel Heir, Mother Killings
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBS4) — The South Florida woman accused of orchestrating the killings of her millionaire husband and mother-in-law may seek a separate trial from her brother and co-defendant, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Narcy Novack, 54, of Fort Lauderdale, and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 57, of Brooklyn, were in federal court for arraignment on a new charge — murder in aid of racketeering — that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
They are accused in the 2009 killings of Ben Novack Jr. in his suburban New York hotel room and Bernice Novack in her Fort Lauderdale home. Ben Novack’s father built the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach.
Prosecutors allege Narcy Novack wanted to get her hands on her husband’s multimillion-dollar estate.
After Novack pleaded not guilty to the new indictment, defense lawyer Howard Tanner told Judge Kenneth Karas, “I have a good basis for a severance motion.”
Tanner did not elaborate in court, and would not say afterward what the basis for separate trials would be. He would not discuss the brother-sister relationship.
But during the court session, Veliz addressed the judge — against his lawyer’s advice — and complained that he was being blamed for something other people had done.
“They did this, not me,” he told Karas, gesturing with a copy of a letter he had sent the judge. “I’m not guilty.”
It was not clear whom he was referring to. The letter has not been made public.
Velez also complained that he “didn’t have enough time” with his lawyer, Lawrence Sheehan. Earlier in the proceeding, Veliz’s arraignment was postponed because he claimed the new indictment had not been fully explained to him.
The judge scheduled a Nov. 4 court session for Veliz to be arraigned and to raise his concerns. He assured Veliz that Sheehan — who was court-appointed — is experienced and knowledgeable and “a good thing for you even if you don’t see eye to eye with him.”
The judge also set April 16 for the beginning of the trial — or one of the trials, if the defendants are tried separately. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Jacobson said it would take six weeks for the prosecution to present its case.
Defense motions — including any motion for severance — are due Dec. 1. Sheehan said both defendants would be making “substantive motions.”
Prosecutors allege that Novack had her husband killed to secure his $10 million estate for herself. His mother’s death, three months before his, added to his fortune.
The new indictment also added charges relating to the maiming of Ben Novack “by bludgeoning his head and body with dumbbells and slitting his eyes with a knife” as he was being killed at the Hilton hotel in Rye Brook. His company had organized an Amway convention there.
Prosecutors alleged earlier that Novack’s eyes were cut on his wife’s orders after she let two killers into the hotel room.
The death of Bernice Novack, 87, was originally ruled an accident, despite her broken jaw and blood smeared on the walls of her house. It was reclassified a homicide after Narcy Novack’s arrest in the death of her husband.
If Narcy Novack is convicted, her daughter, May Abad, stands to inherit the Ben Novack estate. It includes one of the world’s largest collections of Batman memorabilia.
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