Fla. woman gets life in prison in family killings

AP News
Posted: Dec 17, 2012 2:05 PM
Fla. woman gets life in prison in family killings

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A woman who was convicted of orchestrating the beating deaths of her millionaire husband and mother-in-law was sentenced Monday to life in prison. The judge also called her a coward for skipping the court session.

Narcy Novack, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., waived her right to appear at the sentencing, apparently in protest, and listened to it from a prisoner holding area in an adjoining room.

Judge Kenneth Karas called it "her final act of cowardice."

Novack did the same in June when she and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, were convicted of hiring hit men who carried out the 2009 beating deaths of Ben Novack Jr. in New York and Bernice Novack in Florida. Veliz, of Brooklyn, also was sentenced Monday to a life term.

"Because of Ms. Novack's greed and her selfishness and what she thought was her ability to manipulate other people, there are two innocent people — her husband and her mother in law — who are dead," the judge said.

Ben Novack, 53, was the son of the man who built the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, a celebrity hangout in the 1950s and '60s that appeared in the movies "Scarface" and "Goldfinger."

He was beaten to death with dumbbells in July 2009 in his bed at a hotel in Rye Brook, N.Y., where his travel company was managing an Amway convention. A thug who admitted carrying out the killing testified that Narcy Novack ordered her husband's eyes sliced with a knife and offered a pillow to muffle his screams.

Three months earlier, Novack's 86-year-old mother, Bernice, was killed in Fort Lauderdale by being clobbered in the teeth and head with a plumber's wrench.

The killings "involved particularly cruel, sadistic and gratuitous savagery seldom seen in the annals of crime," prosecutors said when they called for life sentences.

They said Narcy Novack feared that her husband would divorce her, and that a prenuptial agreement would bar her from the multimillion-dollar family estate. They said her motives were "hatred, greed and vengeance."

Rebecca Bliss, a former prostitute and porn actress, testified at the trial that she was having an affair with Ben Novack when he was killed.

She said Narcy Novack had offered her $10,000 to end the affair. According to Bliss, Novack said that, "If she couldn't have him, no other woman was going to have him."

The judge said he could find no mitigating factors in Novack's life.

"There's really nothing to explain what she did," he said. "She lived a life of privilege."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Jacobson said Novack and her brother are "pathological liars ... extraordinarily dangerous psychopaths."

"The only sentence that would ensure the safety of the law-abiding community is a sentence that assures these two defendants will spend the rest of their lives in jail," he told the judge.

Novack's attorney, Howard Tanner, tried to get the judge to cap the sentence at 27 years, arguing that she had a lesser role in Bernice Novack's death. But the judge said, "The fact she wasn't there doesn't mean she had a minor role."

He called her "the person behind the scenes."

Veliz's lawyer, Michael Keesee, also asked for a less-than-life sentence, and Veliz himself told the judge, "I had nothing to do with this crime. I have never done anything wrong." He continued to blame Narcy Novack's daughter, May Abad, whose two sons stand to inherit the bulk of the family estate, which included Ben Novack's large collection of Batman memorabilia.

But the judge said Veliz "literally provided the tools" for the killings and lied throughout his testimony.

"I've never seen anything like it," Karas said. "After he said his name, I'm not sure he said a truthful thing."

Novack did not testify.

"The two people who were mainly responsible have handled this in a pathetic and cowardly way," the judge said.

In addition to the attacks on Ben and Bernice Novack, the defendants were convicted of domestic violence and stalking. Novack was convicted of money laundering and transporting stolen property, and Veliz was convicted of witness tampering.

The attackers who cooperated with the prosecution have yet to be sentenced.

Novack was fined $250,000 and ordered to pay more than $100,000 to her husband's company.

Tanner would not say how Novack reacted to the verdict or why she left the courtroom. He said he will soon file an appeal of her conviction.

"She is still asserting her innocence," he said.