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Crazy Love

A brat, a Batman collector, filthy rich and dead. Who killed Miami hotel heir Benji Novack?

Produced by Chuck Stevenson and Dena Goldstein
[This story first aired on Jan. 26, 2013. It was updated on Dec. 6, 2014.]

Detective Sergeant Terry Wilson of the Rye Brook, New York, Police Department and Detective Alison Carpentier of Westchester County, had never witnessed a crime scene this gruesome.

"My God, I can't believe this. It was horrific," Det. Wilson said as he showed "48 Hours" correspondent Troy Roberts photos of the crime scene. "He's on the ground. He's basically hogtied."

"It was a brutal scene. His eyes had both been cut out," said Det. Carpentier.

The victim, 53-year-old Benji Novack, was a multimillionaire Florida businessman. His mutilated body was discovered in the early morning hours of July 12, 2009, in a hotel room in Rye Brook, a suburb 40 minutes north of New York City.

"Duct tape ... was placed on his legs, his arms and around his mouth...when they put it, they did it -- really tight," Det. Wilson continued.

Police believed there was more than one killer.

"Was there any sign of a struggle?" Roberts asked Det. Wilson.

"He was in the bed, they came up on him," he replied. "They hit him multiple times, maybe a dozen times or so."

Police learned from Benji's wife, Narcy Novack, that she and her husband were from South Florida. They were at the Rye Brook, N.Y. hotel all weekend, running a large Amway convention.

As police in New York began their investigation, they soon learned their victim came from a fascinating background: Benji Novack's parents once owned the famous Fontainebleau Hotel, once the hottest spot on Miami Beach in the swinging '60s.

"It was absolutely magnificent ... the glamour, the people that were there from all over the world... it was just incredible," said Michael Aller, a director of tourism for Miami Beach who knows everybody. "I lived at the Fontainebleau hotel ... It was just the place to be and to be seen."


The Fontainebleau was the creation of Benji's parents, Bernice and Ben Novack. They were Miami Beach royalty and everybody from John F. Kennedy to Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack stayed at their hotel.

"It was like Vegas, really. You'd rub shoulders with everybody there," said Benji's aunt, Maxine Fiel.

Fiel spent a lot of time at the hotel with her sister, Bernice.

"It was amazing. They had this stairway to nowhere, which was like some kind of thing for the brides, that would walk down -- it would look like it was just coming out of the clouds," she told Roberts.

Bernice and Ben Novack Sr. owned the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. It was the place to see and be seen, and Bernice was always one of the best-dressed women there.
Bernice and Ben Novack Sr. owned the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. It was the place to see and be seen, and Bernice was always one of the best-dressed women there.
History Miami

"Everybody wanted to see what Mrs. Novack was wearing! She always had to go down and look absolutely better than anyone else. Ben wanted that, she was part of the Fontainebleau."

But Ben and Bernice's son, Benji, was not as charming as his famous parents.

"He was a loner ... He was a little prince," Fiel recalled. "Ben was very secretive in many ways. He was not at ease with people ... he would go trick or treating with the chauffeur and no kids went with him."

"I knew the Novacks, I knew Benji," Aller said. "Benji was not a nice man. He was a tough 'I want it now' type of guy. He was not pleasant to deal with. ... I was the only one who could really confront him and say that, because I'd known him from when he was this big," he continued, showing a photo of Benji as a boy.

Joe Matthews, a former Miami Beach homicide detective, also knew Benji.

"Everybody, as a young boy, were intimidated by him because he would fire housemaids or valet people or whatever he wanted to. He had complete control over the hotel," said Matthews.

"Sounds like a tyrant," Roberts remarked.

"He was. And he wasn't -- he wasn't really an easy guy to like," Matthews said. "He was attracted to all the cops; he spent all his time at the police station."

Asked if Benji aspired to be a police officer, Matthews replied, "For all intents and purposes, he thought he was a police officer."

While the prince of the Fontainebleau played cop, his father's empire started collapsing. He lost the hotel to bankruptcy in 1977. Benji was so distraught he refused to ever drive past the landmark again. His father's failures, though, fueled his ambition and at 22, Benji started his own empire.

Charlie Serayder is another former police officer and one Benji's best friends. He watched Benji become a millionaire several times over with his convention staging business.

"He was an ambitious man?" Roberts asked.

"Extremely ambitious," Serayder replied.

Benji became a wealthy man at a very young age.

"I'm not surprised at that and I'm sure a big chunk of it was cash that he kept," said Matthews.

"Why cash?" Roberts asked.

"I know he always had a lot of cash. He kept a lot of cash in the house," Matthews replied. "And he spent it on himself quite freely."

In 1991, Benji began sharing his good fortune with Narcy Veliz, a young, single mother from Ecuador -- a former exotic dancer with a young child, May Abad. The two married, and eventually, Narcy helped Benji run the business, as did May.

In fact, both women were with Benji at the convention the weekend he was murdered. It was attended by more than 1,000 people and that made the investigation tricky.

"You had a hotel full of possible suspects?" Roberts asked Det. Carpentier.

"Right, right ... and we didn't know which way to go," she replied. "Is this a robbery, is it a domestic gone wrong, is it isolated, is he a target?"

Police soon established a timeline from phone records. Benji was alive at 6.54 a.m.

"We know Ben was alive," Det. Carpentier explained, "because he receives a phone call from a worker in the hotel saying there was a problem, there was overcrowding for breakfast."

Narcy left their room to sort out the seating problem in the dining room. She can be seen on video down there at around 7:17 a.m.

Thirty minutes later she told police she returned to the room and discovered Ben's body.

Asked to describe Narcy's demeanor, Det. Carpentier told Roberts, "I think the first thing she said to me [was], 'Did Ben have a heart attack?' Meanwhile, she had seen him. There was blood everywhere in this room. I mean, it was a bloody mess. ... I kept saying to her, 'Narcy, you saw Ben tied up. You know, what do you mean 'did he have a heart attack?'"



In the hours after the murder of Benji Novack, detectives Alison Carpentier and Terry Wilson were talking to as many people as they could.

"It was Sunday. The convention was over, so if anyone involved in the convention was our killers, they definitely would be leaving," Det. Carpentier explained.

Investigators videotaped a hotel guest who encountered Narcy in the hallway minutes after she said she had just discovered Benji's body.

He told police that Narcy was acting suspicious - "she looked surprised." He noticed the door to their room didn't show any signs of a break in.

In fact, neither of the doors to the Novack suite showed any signs of forced entry. So police looked at the card key history leading up to the murder.

"They showed that -- there were no card keys used to enter that room between, say, five after 12:00 at night and 7:40 in the morning," said Det. Wilson.

At 7:45, a card swipe is logged. That card swipe was from Narcy's key.

"...and that's when she supposedly discovers the body," Det. Carpentier said. "It was obvious he had been sleeping when he was attacked. So we didn't believe that he had walked to the door and opened the door up to somebody."

So how did the killers gain access to Benji's room?

"The only one else that had access to that room was Narcy," said Det. Carpentier.

In her interview the day after the murder, Narcy Novack tells police she's not sure if she closed the door when she left Benji to go downstairs to the dining room:

"It could have been that I left the door open," Narcy told investigators. "I didn't have anything to do with opening the door intentionally for anybody."

Det. Carpentier says the interview with Narcy lasted for hours. "She wouldn't go the bathroom, she didn't want a glass of water, she didn't want a coffee. You know, she just held her own all night."

"I have no clue what happened, I have nothing to do with my husband's death," Narcy told investigators.

Narcy and Benji Novack
Narcy and Benji Novack

Narcy was emphatic she had always loved Benji. The couple had met almost two decades earlier on an unlikely first date.

"When he hooked up to Narcy she was a nude dancer in Hialeah in kind of a sleazy strip joint," Joe Matthews explained. "She looked like a girl who worked on the streets and worked her way up to be to nude dancer."

"Worked her way up to be a nude dancer?" Roberts asked.

"That's Joe's opinion," said Matthews.

Narcy's life had been a far cry from Benji's privileged past at the Fontainebleau.

Asked if the couple were in love, Charlie Serayder told Roberts, "He definitely was in love with Narcy, yes."

Serayder was close to both Benji and Narcy for almost two decades. The couple even attended his wedding.

"And do you believe that Narcy was in love with him?" Roberts asked.

"I believe in the beginning, yes," Serayder replied.

Because of Benji, Narcy was afforded an extravagant lifestyle.

"They lived in a multimillion dollar estate," Det. Carpentier said.

"Drove expensive cars. She had furs. She had beautiful jewelry. She enjoyed the best of the best."

As Benji's convention business grew and grossed millions, he splurged on one of his childhood fantasies.

"I think he was probably one of the biggest collectors of Batman memorabilia," said Matthews.

His prized possession: a replica of the 1960s Batmobile.

"I guess he could afford it," Serayder said. "Anything related to the superheroes."

"Stacks and stacks of first-addition toys," said Matthews.


Friends say collecting memorabilia wasn't his only indulgence. Benji had an appetite for other women.

"Benji didn't care, he was a party boy that thought for the moment," said Matthews.

"He was always cheating," Serayder told Roberts.

Asked if Narcy knew, Serayder said, "Narcy always suspected Ben of cheating. She was a very jealous woman."

Early on, before Ben and Narcy were married, Charlie Serayder got a taste of Narcy's jealousy.

"Benji received a phone call and she was extremely upset," Serayder recalled, "and she was threatening to burn his house down and he was pleading with her that he was not cheating."

Cheating was just the beginning. Benji's sexual tastes could have been ripped right from the pages of the most recent erotic best sellers.

"I know he was into bondage," said Matthews.

Bondage, though, with a decided twist.

"Narcy told us he likes to be tied up," said Det. Carpentier.

"Benji was who he was," Serayder explained. "Let's say this. Nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors."

But it's what happened behind the closed door of the hotel room that concerns homicide detective Alison Carpentier.

Detective Carpentier asked Narcy about the couple's bondage games and the strange coincidence of finding Benji bound and tied:

Det. Carpentier: Ben is found in a way that he enjoys sexually. ... Don't you think it's odd? ... He died in a position that he finds sexually arousing.

Narcy Novack: When I left Ben, he was not tied up.

"When you'd confront her with allegations she would just not really respond to it at all. It was odd," said the detective.

Then detectives got a tip from police in Florida about a bizarre incident involving bondage.

"We learned that she had tied him up and stole, he says, between $300,[000] and $400,000," said Det. Carpentier.

In 2002, Benji was the victim of a home invasion that, according to him, was orchestrated by Narcy.

"He called me up and said he'd just been robbed," Serayder said. "He says 'I've been tied up in a chair for 25 hours and I think my wife was involved.'"

"Why would Narcy stage this home invasion and rob him?" Roberts asked.

"She was fed up with him, fed up with his cheating, fed up with everything and wanted to prove a point," Serayder replied.

For reasons unknown, Benji never pressed charges and, amazingly, the couple reconciled.

"After all was said and done, he went back with her because he loved her," said Serayder.

But the similarities of the 2002 incident and Benji's murder seven years later convinced investigators to turn up the heat on Narcy:

Det. Carpentier: Do you want me to ask you straight out, did you have any involvement in your husband's death?

Narcy Novack: No. Is there is an electrical chair and I'm a suspect give it to me right now. Put me out of my misery. ... I want to die.

"She tried to act like a grieving widow, it didn't come off like that at all, to any of the investigators, I don't think," Det. Carpentier told Roberts.

But if Narcy was involved in Benji's death, what could be her motive?

"I think she -- she knew she was gonna be replaced," said Det. Carpentier, who learned that Benji had taken up with another woman.

"He was sort of looking for a bad girl, but I was too bad of a girl for him," said Rebecca Bliss, formerly known as "Mona Love." She was all over the internet.

"She admits being a prostitute, pornographic movies," said Det. Carpentier.

Bliss says began as a sexual tryst, grew into a serious, ongoing relationship of almost two years.

"He used to make me laugh," she said in tears. "Everyday, you know, talking to him about personal things."

Benji moved her from Miami, where she was dancing in a strip club, to a condominium in Fort Lauderdale.

"He cared about me a lot, he would tell me he loved me everyday," said Bliss.


With Rebecca Bliss in the wings, was Benji about to leave Narcy? Not if Narcy Novack had anything to do with it.

"She called me, screaming at me, yelling at me," Bliss said. "She said, 'If she couldn't have him no one will.'"



In the days after Benji Novack's murder, detectives began casting a wider net.

"The investigation would start to expand. We knew that we had to go to Florida," said Det. Sgt. Terry Wilson of the Rye Brook, N.Y., Police Dept.

In Fort Lauderdale, detectives began to piece together Benji's life -- uncovering his complicated connections to several women and their relationships with each other.

"We found a family in turmoil," said Det. Alison Carpentier of Westchester County, N.Y.

There was no love lost between Benji's wife and his mother, Bernice.

Asked what Narcy and Bernice's relationship was like, friend Charlie Serayder said, "From day one, extremely strained."

It was like that up until the day Bernice tragically passed away after a fall, just three months earlier.

"His mom did not like his wife. I mean they really hated each other," said Joe Matthews.

The direct opposite of a very close bond between Bernice and Benji.

"And he would talk to his mother daily. So he -- obviously was a loving son," Det. Carpentier said. "And he stayed very close with his mother up until her death."

Then there was May Abad, Narcy's daughter from a previous marriage.

"May was shipped off to different people throughout her life," Det. Carpentier explained. "She lived with aunts, she lived with friends."

May was just 10 years old when Benji and Narcy got together.

"May and -- and her mother had a pretty stormy mother-daughter relationship," Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown explained.

Brown has written extensively about the Novack murder case and was a consultant for CBS News.

"Having a 10-year-old daughter at the time that she met Ben ... really wasn't very convenient --for Narcy," said Brown.

Over the years, May grew close to Benji, considering him the father she never had. And just after Benji's murder, she became convinced her mother may have played a role in his death.

"She said, 'I -- it's the worst thing in the world to have to believe that your mother might have killed your father ... and she said that she believed that-- that-- that her mother did do it," Brown told Troy Roberts.

"And the motive was?"

"Money. It was money," Brown replied.

Narcy Novack
Narcy Novack

Narcy was the sole beneficiary of Benji's estate -- then valued between $5 and $10 million.

"I think Narcy's very smart. She knows how to manipulate people. She will do whatever it takes to get what she needs," said Det. Carpentier.

Just three days after the murder, Narcy and May -- now back in Florida at the Novack's waterfront home -- had an ugly confrontation recorded on surveillance camera.

"May had gone there to collect her things at a guest cottage on the property," Brown explained, "and Narcy took a crowbar and started chasing her around with the crowbar."

"I got a hysterical phone call sometime around 6:00," said Charlie Serayder.

Concerned for May's safety, Serayder raced to Benji's home.

"And when I pulled up -- May and Narcy ... were yelling at each other in the driveway of their home," he continued. "And May was screaming at her, 'You murdered -- Ben." And -- at that point a crowbar came into it. ... they just went at each other. And I split 'em up."

But not before Narcy whacked May with the crowbar.

"You have to go where your evidence leads you," Det. Carpentier explained, "and it just kept leading back to Narcy."

Despite all their suspicions, police didn't have enough hard evidence to charge Narcy. Then, out of the blue 10 days after the murder, investigators received a bombshell anonymous letter that would change everything.

Translated from Spanish, it read in part: "This crime without a doubt was committed by the wife of Mr. Novack and her brother."

Narcy's brother, Cristobal Veliz, was a bus driver in Pennsylvania.

Detectives went to Philadelphia and interviewed him in his apartment. Cristobal denied knowing anything about Benji's murder.

"As we entered ... it's a small kitchen area," Det. Wilson said. "There was a table there, and he invited us to sit down at the table."

Detectives couldn't help but notice what was on that table.

"... it was littered with papers... and part of the papers were Western Union receipts," Det. Wilson said. "We just -- we couldn't believe it."

Cristobal had been wiring money to various people. When he left the room for a moment, detectives made note of some of the payees.

Detective Wilson says one name proved very helpful.

Alejandro Garcia of Miami had been wired $500 by Cristobal just one month after Benji's murder. Detectives wondered if that was payment for the hit on Benji.

"Alejandro only had one eye," Det. Carpentier explained. "A search of the database in Florida led us to Alejandro Garcia."

It turns out Garcia had a record. And with his mug shot in hand, detectives poured over the Rye Brook hotel surveillance tapes from that fateful weekend. Benji is captured by the security camera and they hit pay dirt.

"I had detectives go over and over and over the video at the Hilton," Det. Wilson explained. "You could see it was Alejandro ... The shots on Friday were very clear photos."

You can even see Benji Novack walking by the camera.

Two days before the murder, surveillance cameras show Garcia and another man. Detectives think they are casing the hotel in preparation for Benji's murder.

The other man caught on camera was Joel Gonzalez, also from South Florida. Police believed Narcy's brother, Cristobal, hired the two men to come to New York and kill Benji. Investigators would spend months gathering evidence.


"We did everything from credit card statements -- banking statements," said Det. Wilson.

"Phones became huge in this investigation," said Det. Carpentier.

"Because once we had everybody's phone numbers, we were able to track ... the movement of the phones," said Det. Wilson.

The paper trail led them to a motel in Queens, N.Y., where, according to records, the two men stayed the weekend of the murder.

Four months after the murder, in November 2009, detectives brought in Alejandro Garcia for questioning.

"As we were talking to him, he played stupid ... he's never been in New York, he never left the state of Florida ," said Det. Wilson.

Detective: Have you ever been in New York?

Alejandro Garcia (via interpreter): No.

Detective: Did you stay in this hotel? [Shows card of Cross Bay Motor Inn]

Alejandro Garcia: No.

Detective: We have him on film at this hotel ... we have him on film with Joel going to the other hotel.

Detective: What were you doing there?

Alejandro Garcia: In reality I don't know.

Interpreter: He says, I'd rather have an attorney, too many questions.

"He was unraveling at that point," said Det. Wilson.

But with Detective Carpentier, Garcia would later trip up and implicate himself.

"...and then starts telling me he's scared for his family and that the people that did this are very dangerous," she said.

"We knew we had the right guy, he just confirmed it for us," said Det. Wilson.

Investigators now went after Joel Gonzalez.

"Joel was on the run, but he eventually-- turned himself in to the Miami PD," said Det. Wilson.

Gonzalez was ready to talk.

"Joel gave everything up right then and there," Det. Wilson told Troy Roberts. "And he implicated Narcy, Cristobal, Alejandro."

It wasn't long before Garcia, too, decided to cooperate.

The story they told investigators was shocking. It was Narcy who let them into Benji's bedroom early that terrible July morning while he was sleeping.

"They came up on him, and they positioned themselves on each side of the bed," Det. Wilson explained. "They had these weights ... and they just started hitting the victim. They hit him multiple times, maybe a dozen times or so. He ends up on the floor."

"Ben was duct taped on his legs, his mouth was covered," said Det. Carpentier.

According to the hit men, Narcy was not only just watching the brutal assault -- she was directing it.

"Narcy sends Alejandro back into the bedroom and she wants him to take his eyes out. So he uses something very similar to this," Det. Wilson said, showing Roberts a utility knife.

Asked why, Det. Wilson replied, "You'd have to really ask Narcy why."

Finally, in July 2010, a year after Benji's death, Narcy - along with her brother, Cristobal -- are arrested in connection with Benji's murder.

But Narcy would soon find herself facing not one -- but two murder charges.



A year after Benji Novack's murder, Narcy and Cristobal were back in New York -- in jail and awaiting trial.

In Florida, as reporter Julie Brown investigated the case, something in his family history was worth a second look.

"So shortly after Benji Novack's murder you began digging into the circumstances surrounding Bernice's death?" Troy Roberts asked Brown.

"Well the first thing you do a reporter when you have a case like this is you look at the clips and what has been written. And one of the first things that popped up was an obituary for his mother," she replied. "And it said that she had died from a fall in her Fort Lauderdale home."

Benji found his mother's body facedown in a pool of blood in the hallway between the garage and the kitchen.

"Ben called me," said Charlie Serayder.

"What did he say?" Roberts asked.

"'I just found my mom dead,'" he replied.

"Did he say that he believed it was suspicious?"

"No, he was overcome with grief at that point," said Serayder.

"What was Narcy's demeanor?" Roberts asked.

"I have to tell you, in all the years that I had seen her, she couldn't be any more consoling and -- just rubbing his hair and his neck and -- and just actually being very tender to him," Serayder replied.

"They said right away they felt it was a tragic accident...that she had died of natural causes," said Lynn Offerdahl.

Lynn and John Offerdahl, who lived next door to Bernice in Fort Lauderdale, remember well the day their close friend died.

"We went outside and stood in the driveway. And Ben was there with Narcy," Lynn Offerdahl recalled. "Two police were walking around and doing some investigation. And all we could see was into the garage. And we could see her car with the door open, her glasses were smashed on the ground. There was blood dripping from the car, all the way up to the door."

And there were blood drops all over the house.

"And I was just curious. It just seemed an odd coincidence that she died three months before her son," Brown said. "So I thought it couldn't hurt if I got a copy of the autopsy report if there was one done."

"Eventually I got the report," Brown continued. "The extent of her injuries just seemed enormous for a woman who had just taken a fall. She had fractures all over her body ... her skull was fractured. She had a broken finger. Her teeth were broken. It just seemed too much for a fall."

Benji soon had questions about what he had seen at his mother's house.

"I just said, 'Wait until the investigation concludes before you make any judgment,'" said Serayder.

"So he was already questioning whether or not this was an accidental death?" Roberts asked.

"Yes. At that time he was and I don't think it ever left him."

Bernice's sister, Maxine Fiel, also doubted that it was an accident.

"When you were told that your sister had died, were you suspicious?" Roberts asked.

"From the get-go," Fiel replied. "Oh, she did all that herself? She fell down and got up and fell down, like a jack-in-the-box, right?"

"What was it about circumstances surrounding her death and the crime scene photos that really sent up red flags for you?" Roberts asked Brown.

"Everything," she replied. "Just about everything."

More red flags appeared when Brown learned from the Offerdahls about a suspicious incident at Bernice's house. Their son saw two men standing next to Bernice's garage, appearing to be casing her home.

"And we thought that was a little unusual, but we didn't overly react," John Offerdahl said.

The retired NFL player and his son went to investigate.

"We opened up the door, the dog started chasing' after the guys happily. And I said, 'Hey, what are you guys doing'?' And they looked at us, and for a second, kinda were stunned," he said. "And then, they started jogging and then starting ... to sprint when the dog started chasing 'em."

Two months later, Bernice was dead.

When Narcy and Benji arrived at the house, Lynn Offerdahl recalled Narcy was acting strangely.

"I remember Narcy was so odd. I mean, she just kept, kind of, jumping around the scene and wringing her hands and saying, 'I just don't understand it, and I just can't imagine. And I just spoke with Bernice last night, and we were gonna go vitamin shopping in the morning,'" she said. "And I kept thinking to myself you guys don't get along, you don't like each other. Why -- she wouldn't go vitamin shopping with you. ... None of that made any sense to me."

And all of the blood -- that investigators seemingly overlooked in Bernice's house -- made no sense to Julie Brown. So she called in ex-police officer Joe Matthews for his expert opinion.

"What did you see that the police did not?" Roberts asked Matthews.

"When you look at the crime scene there's -- blood spatter on the walls. There's blood in almost every room of the house," he said. "The investigator felt that, you know, it was one of those things where she would stand up and fall down, stand up and fall down, and walk -- all over the house. But then how do you explain the blood spatter?"

"If you look at the crime scene, you'll see that there was a lot of blood on the seat," Matthews told Roberts as they looked at photos.

"But I saw some blood spatter. So if there's spatter here, that means she was struck more than once in the head while sitting here."

Convinced she'd uncovered a murder, Julie Brown took her findings to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.

"And I would go to them -- with question after question to the point where they were getting extremely upset with me," she said. "And 'it's a closed case, it's an accident.'"

"Are you suggesting this was a cover-up?" Roberts asked.

"Initially, I don't think it was cover-up. I think initially that they were really ... thought that it was an accident," she replied. "I think they made a lot of mistakes ... it was really a lot of mistakes."

All that was about to change. As investigators were making a deal with hit man Alejandro Garcia to testify against Narcy and Cristobal, he revealed they also hired him to attack Bernice, beating the 86-year-old woman with a wrench.

"He was approached by Cristobal Velez to -- kill Bernice," Det. Carpentier explained. "And he waited when it got dark, on the side of her house by her garbage pails. ... And when she came out to move her car into the garage is when he struck her."

Garcia told investigators he was hired by Cristobal for both attacks and, once again Narcy was the mastermind. Ten months after they were arrested for Benji's murder, Cristobal and Narcy were also charged in Bernice's death.

But why would Narcy want Benji's mother dead?



Three years after the murders of Ben Novack Jr. and his mother, Bernice, Narcy Novack and Cristobal Veliz went on trial in federal court in Westchester.

"She looked very gaunt. She went out of her way to not make herself look attractive. She was given the option of wearing regular clothing and she chose to wear her orange prison jumpsuit every day," reporter Julie Brown said of Narcy's appearance.

Alejandro Garcia and Joel Gonzalez made deals with the prosecution to testify for the chance of receiving a lighter sentence.

"They all basically ended up cooperating," said Brown.

The prosecution had an overwhelming amount of evidence against the defendants.

"Cristobal used his credit card -- to purchase the dumbbells that were used to beat Ben Novack. He also used his credit card to purchase the knife that was used to cut out Ben's eyes," said Det. Alison Carpentier.

The jury was also shown video taken at a Western Union which, prosecutors say, shows Cristobal sending money to hit man Garcia -- one of the many clues he left behind.

"He used his own car for some of the transports. He used his own cell phone," Det. Carpentier said. "So that left a trail that we were able to uncover."

The case against Narcy was also strong. Prosecutors told the jury about Narcy's secret cell phone. They called it a drop phone.

"Now that particular phone was used at 6:40, 6:39 in the morning at the Rye Town Hilton," said Det. Terry Wilson.

Narcy used it to call the hit men as they waited at a gas station down the street.

"We had located what phone Narcy used to call the killers and tell them 'come on in.' That was big," said Det. Carpentier.

And remember that video of Narcy down at the breakfast room?

Prosecutors say she tried to establish an alibi by intentionally standing before the hotel security cameras around the time of the murder.

"She knew where the cameras were and where they weren't. You could tell by that that particular morning, how she plants herself directly right in front of a camera. And that's where she stays. She makes some phone calls, because she wants to be seen on that camera," said Det. Wilson.

The defense tried to hammer back. They questioned the hit mens credibility and reminded the jury they were testifying after making a deal with prosecutors. And they dropped a bombshell: the possibility of another killer. Troy Roberts asked Cristobal Veliz about that in a phone call from jail:

Troy Roberts: Did you orchestrate the murder of Benji Novack?

Cristobal Veliz: No.

Troy Roberts: Did you arrange for the murder of Bernice Novack?

Cristobal Veliz: No sir.

Troy Roberts: Why would they pin these murders on you, sir?

Cristobal Veliz: They be well paid by my niece, May Abad.

Incredibly, Cristobal points the finger at Narcy's daughter: May Abad.

Troy Roberts: So, you're saying May is the one who paid for the murders of Benji Novack and Bernice?

Cristobal Veliz: I don't know about Miss Bernice. I cannot say nothing about that lady, because what I -- so far I know she fell down. ... But I know -- she told me about my brother-in-law ... she came to me and she told me, "Ben deserved to die, because Ben was a bad, evil person."

"He told some wild story that didn't make any sense at all, trying to point the finger at her daughter," Brown said. "It was truly unbelievable."


Cristobal's story quickly fell apart when Alejandro Garcia testified that, in reality, May Abad was next on his list.

"When we interviewed Alejandro and we took him into custody, he had a picture of May in his wallet," Det. Carpentier said. "We believed that obviously the hit was out on May."

Only Narcy knows why she'd want her only daughter killed. But the apparent plot worried Detective Carpentier. She became so concerned about May's safety she loaned her $5,000 of her own money so she could go into hiding.

"You got into trouble," Roberts commented.

"Well, I didn't get into trouble. The prosecutor's office removed me from the case," the detective replied.

Asked if she was angry, Det. Carpentier told Roberts, "I wasn't angry. I was disappointed, because you work so hard, and obviously I wanted to be there for the takedown, the arrest."

Det. Carpentier was there for the verdict. After a two-month trial, Narcy Novack and Cristobal Veliz were convicted of orchestrating Ben and Bernice's murders.

"I kept hearing, 'Guilty, guilty, guilty,'" Det. Carpentier said. "So it was exciting for us."

As elaborate and convoluted as the murder plots were, Narcy's motive was quite simple.

"She knew he had a mistress. She was afraid he was gonna leave her, and divorce her," said Joe Matthews.

Ben and Narcy's prenuptial agreement only guaranteed her $65,000 in the event of a divorce.

"His intentions were to be with me, and he did not want me to be with anyone else, and he asked me to just wait 'til he was finished with the divorce," said Rebecca Bliss, Benji's mistress.

That's why Matthews says Narcy had no choice but to arrange a double murder.

"She had to kill the old lady for him to get all the money, and then kill him to get all the money...that's how simple it was," he said.

"Could this have been the perfect murder?" Roberts asked.

"Any murder could be the perfect murder, but they're not. There's always something'," Matthews replied. "She was sloppy. ... And I thought she -- I think she thought she was smarter than -- than the - investigators."

Narcy may not have outsmarted the investigators, but she did surprise them.

"We were surprised to learn that she stayed in the room and participated," Det. Carpentier said. "That was pretty surprising ... that she could be that vicious watching somebody that you lived with and -- you know, lived in the same house with for 20 years and to watch him die like that."

Even more surprising was the author of that letter to police which pointed the finger at both Cristobal and Narcy; it was written by one of their own sisters.

"You have to question what type of family fabric existed for them to be able to get to this point," said Charlie Serayder.

Just about everything from this case turned out to be surprising. From the relentless ambition of Benji Novack...

"I think that Benji was just a demanding individual. And in the roles that I had seen him while he was in business, it was always demanding because he wanted the best for his customers," said Serayder.

... to the deadly greed of his wife, Narcy ...

"This is somebody that is a monster ," Maxine Fiel said. "She was such a -- a sociopath and such a great liar."

... to the devotion of Benji's mistress.

"I miss Ben every day. I love him very much," said Bliss.

But in the end, all that's left is the money -- $10 million by some estimates, dwindling fast between lawyers and squabbling family members. For the Novack family, once the royalty of Miami Beach, the lights are out and the party is over.

Narcy Novack and her brother Cristobal Veliz were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. They are appealing their convictions.

Detective Alison Carpentier retired from Westchester County Police after their arrests.

Benji Novack's fortune is still tied up in a Florida court.