Coroner Throws Monkey Wrench in Novack Matriarch's Death

New witness tells investigators Bernice Novack was murdered

By Ari Odzer and Brian Hamacher
|  Friday, Jul 16, 2010  |  Updated 7:23 PM EDT
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Hotel Heir Murder

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Hotel Heir Murder

While it took investigators a year to deem her death a homicide, at least one person knew it was foul play all along.
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It's been over a year since Bernice Novack's bloody body was found inside her Fort Lauderdale home, the victim of what was thought at the time to be a series of accidental falls.

That is, until a big monkey wrench as thrown into the case - literally.

On Thursday, Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Joshua Perper reversed course on the death of Bernice Novack, changing his ruling on the case to a homicide.

The April 2009 death of the widow of famed Fontainebleau hotel founder Ben Novack Sr. was ruled an accident and was given little thought until last week, when the wife of Novack's son, Ben Jr., was arrested on charges related to his murder.

Perper confirmed the ruling during a Friday morning press conference, saying it was the first time in his 16 years as medical examiner that he's had to make such a ruling.

“The testimony is very clear and certain and firm that she indeed was assaulted,” Perper said.

The first ruling had been made based on the initial death investigation by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. Perper said that at the time of her death, the 86-year-old's recent history of accidental falls made the initial scenario fit.

Perper said he made the decision to change the ruling after another law enforcement agency presented him with information from a witness who was apparently at the scene of Bernice Novack's killing. Federal investigators claim a witness has come forward and said Bernice Novack was beaten in her car with a monkey wrench and left for dead.

Authorities say the hit was ordered by Narcy Novack.

Narcy Novack, Ben Jr.'s wife, her brother, and two other men were indicted last week on federal charges related to her husband's July 2009 murder inside the couple's hotel room in upstate New York.

Narcy Novack, who stood to inherit millions from her husband, is facing stalking and conspiring to commit interstate domestic violence charges. 

"Narcy Novack was complicit in the homicide of Bernice Novack," Jacobson said, adding that Narcy Novack and Veliz hired two men to attack the elderly woman, brutally beating her to death with a monkey wrench.

According to indictment documents, the 53-year-old led the killers into the hotel room and even handed them a pillow to smother her husband as they beat and slashed him to death. Also charged are Narcy Novack's brother, Cristobal Veliz, as well as Denis Ramirez and Joel Gonzalez.

During a Wednesday court appearance, Federal prosecutor Elliott Jacobson alleged that Narcy Novack not only had a hand in killing her husband, but also plotted the death of her mother-in-law.

Narcy Novack has not been charged in Bernice Novack's death, and on Friday, FLPD spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa said their department is waiting to see what course of action federal authorities take before proceeding in the Bernice Novack case.

Narcy Novack is being held without bond until she is taken to New York to face the charges related to her husband's murder.

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