FORT LAUDERDALE — A woman already accused of orchestrating the slaying of her wealthy hotel heir husband also plotted the beating death of her elderly mother-in-law in hopes of reaping millions of dollars from their wills, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Jacobson said at a hearing that Narcy Novack, 53, and her brother, 56-year-old Cristobal Veliz, hired two men to assault 86-year-old Bernice Novack at her Fort Lauderdale home last year, three months before Ben Novack Jr. was slain in a Rye Brook, N.Y., hotel room.
Jacobson said she was beaten with a monkey wrench. Neither Narcy Novack nor her brother have been charged with the elderly woman's killing and state officials have called her death an accident.
"Narcy Novack was complicit in the homicide of Bernice Novack," Jacobson said at a bail hearing for Narcy Novack, who is charged in New York with plotting the July 2009 killing of her 53-year-old husband.
Ben Novack's father founded Miami Beach's famed Fontainebleau Hotel, where the family lived in the penthouse and hobnobbed with movie stars, singers and even gangsters.
Despite a bloody scene and mysterious circumstances, Bernice Novack's death had twice previously been ruled an accident by the Broward County medical examiner. Jacobson said federal investigators asked the Westchester County, N.Y., medical examiner to look at the evidence, and the new conclusion was reached that she was slain.
"She died after she was struck several times," Jacobson said.
Westchester County officials declined Wednesday to discuss the new report or release it.
Narcy Novack's attorney, Howard Tanner, insisted that his client was innocent of her husband's killing and had nothing to do with her mother-in-law's death.
"They want to strengthen their case by implicating her in a so-called homicide that has no basis in fact," Tanner said.
Narcy Novack, her brother and two other men are charged in New York with conspiring to commit interstate domestic violence and stalking in Ben Novack's death. All face a potential life sentence if convicted.
At Wednesday's hearing, Narcy Novack was ordered held without bail until trial and agreed to be transferred to New York to face the charges.
Jacobson said at the hearing that a still-unidentified accomplice in Ben Novack's killing has already pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges and is cooperating with investigators. That informant, he said, implicated Narcy Novack in both her husband's and her mother-in-law's deaths.
Ben Novack's mother left her estate to him, and Narcy stood to inherit about $10 million after her husband's death. Ben Novack had one of the world's largest collections of Batman memorabilia.
A few new details about Ben Novack's killing and the investigation also emerged. According to Jacobson:
—Narcy Novack gave police a misleading account about a piece of sunglasses found at the crime scene, saying they were hers when they belonged to the confidential informant.
—Ben Novack was beaten to death with dumbbells carried by the assailants, one of whom also gouged out his eyes with a utility knife on Narcy Novack's orders. "In Spanish, she urged them to cut out his eyes and finish him," Jacobson said.
—Cell phone records establish that all the suspects were present at the hotel the day Ben Novack was slain.
—After her husband's death, Narcy Novack attempted to access a Florida bank safe-deposit box by claiming that he would come by later to authorize it.
Two of the other suspects are being held in New York without bail. The third, 25-year-old Joel Gonzalez, turned himself in last week in Miami and faces a bail hearing Thursday. Jacobson said Gonzalez confessed to taking part in the Ben Novack killing and implicated Narcy Novack.
Associated Press writer Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains, N.Y., contributed to this story.