WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSMiami/AP) – A Florida woman accused of arranging her millionaire husband’s killing took the witness stand Friday in an orange prison jumpsuit and insisted that her statements to police over three days of questioning were involuntary.
The surprise testimony of Narcy Novack, 54, of Fort Lauderdale, came during a federal court hearing about what evidence will be allowed at her trial next month.
She and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 57, of Brooklyn, are accused of orchestrating the killings of her husband, Ben Novack Jr., and his mother, Bernice Novack, in 2009. They face automatic life in prison if convicted of murder in aid of racketeering.
Ben Novack was the son of the founder of the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach. He was beaten to death at the Hilton hotel in Rye Brook, N.Y., where his travel company had organized an Amway convention. His 86-year-old mother had been killed in her Fort Lauderdale home three months earlier.
Although she has consistently denied involvement in the killings, Narcy Novack is asking that the video-recorded questioning be ruled inadmissible.
“I did not care to make any statements,” the Uruguayan native said. “I was told this was a procedure I had to follow. I did what the police said.”
She repeatedly said she had “no choice” but to submit to questioning. She said she just wanted to see her husband’s body, and police repeatedly told her she would have to talk to them first.
“Just help us,” Novack quoted investigators as saying. “We need to get this done. Get yourself together and answer the questions.”
She also said she had initially refused to take a lie detector test, which found she had been deceptive.
“They asked me to sign (the polygraph agreement) and I said, ‘No, I’m tired.'” But then investigators pressured her into it by saying she could leave afterward, she said.
She also complained that at one point they were “screaming at me. Calling me names.”
Novack also said she was never read her rights. In court papers filed in January, the prosecution said Novack was not entitled to a Miranda warning because she was never in custody. In court on Friday, however, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Jacobson said the prosecution was “no longer contesting custody.” He would not elaborate.
Under questioning by her lawyer, Howard Tanner, Novack said she went through seven straight hours of questioning without being given food or a bathroom break. During that time, she said, she had talked about suicide several times.
“I wanted to take some pills and get it over with,” she said.
On cross-examination, Novack acknowledged that she never asked to leave the room. She said that was because “They told me, ‘Stay here.'” She confirmed that without being pressed, she had offered details of her sex life with her husband.
Jacobson also brought out that after Novack’s 2010 arrest, her lawyer bragged to the judge at a detention hearing that she had been “voluntarily cooperating with police.”
When Jacobson asked Novack if that was true, she said sharply, “Ask my lawyer.”
Novack’s testimony followed that of Edward Murphy, senior investigator for the Westchester County district attorney’s office.
He testified that Novack was being questioned as a witness rather than a suspect and was “very agreeable. … anything she could do to help.”
He said the questioning was “casual, low key, amiable” at the start but became more confrontational.
Murphy also testified about questioning Veliz. But when Veliz took the stand, he confused the courtroom by repeatedly claiming that the “Ed Murphy” who questioned him was not the investigator who testified.
“He looked different,” Veliz said.
Veliz also claimed that investigators who came to his apartment entered and searched it without his permission.
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