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Crime News Sins of the South

Woman Hires Hit On Her Wealthy Husband and Mother-In-Law: "Eyeballs Had Been Cut Out"

What was behind the grisly deaths of two members of a Florida hotel dynasty? “Greed and vengeance,” said a retired cop.  

By Joe Dziemianowicz

Ben Novack Jr., a Florida hotel heir-turned businessman, grew up surrounded by glamor. He died in horror.

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Watch Sins of the South on Oxygen Sundays at 7/6c and next day on Peacock. 

On July 12, 2009, Novack, 53, was found beaten to death in his hotel suite in Rye Brook, New York, where his company was holding its latest convention, NBC News reported

Novack was found face-down on the floor in his underwear with his legs and mouth taped, said Terence Wilson, who’s now retired from the Rye Brook Police Department.

“There was a lot of blood all over. His eyeballs had been cut out,” Wilson told Sins of the South, airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen.

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What happened to Ben Novack? 

Narcy Novack, the victim’s wife, told police she’d discovered her husband at 11:30 a.m. She’d left their room five hours earlier to take care of a business issue.

“She said her husband was the love of her life,” said Alison Carpentier, now retired from the Westchester County Police. Narcy had no leads about possible suspects.

Investigators turned to her daughter, May Abad. They learned that she and Ben were close. He was grooming her to take over his company, which organized large conventions.

Ben Novack Jr. featured on Sins of the South Episode 105

Clues collected at the crime scene 

Ben was a “substantial size man,” said Carpentier. Detectives believed that it would have taken more than one person to subdue him.

A Rolex watch left at the scene, along with the brutality of the slaying, led police to believe it wasn’t a robbery gone wrong, said Wilson.

There were no security cameras on the crime-scene floor and a canvas of the area turned up no witnesses. It also appeared there was no forced entry into the suite.

Narcy Novack emerges as a suspect

A review of key cards showed that Narcy was the only person who swiped her way into the room.  

“Right then and there we started to focus our attention towards Narcy,” said Wilson. Investigators corroborated her account of her morning activities with hotel staff.

Narcy and Abad were questioned separately again the next morning at the police station.

Police noted inconsistencies between Narcy’s accounts. She originally said she’d run into the hall immediately after seeing the body but she later said she tripped on the corpse, raising a red flag. 

“There was blood all over the place,” said Wilson, adding that Narcy’s clothes were collected as evidence. “She had no blood on her shoes or on anything.”

Narcy eventually agreed to a lie detector test. She took it five times. “All five times she failed,” said Carpentier. “When May found out she got really mad. She actually went after Narcy.”

New York homicide leads detectives to Florida

Failing a polygraph isn’t sufficient evidence to make an arrest though, so Narcy headed home to Florida.

New York investigators followed her there and partnered with members of Florida law enforcement, according to Sins of the South.

Charlie Seraydar, a retired member of the Miami Police Department and a friend of Ben Novack, shared information with New York detectives, telling them that Novack’s 87-year-old mother, Bernice, died under suspicious circumstances three months earlier.

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Bernice Novack’s Mysterious Death 

Bernice was a former Coca Cola model. Her hotelier husband developed the Fontainebleau Hotel, which quickly became a luxury hotspot in the 1950s.

After they sold the Fontainebleau in the late 1970s, the Novacks remained associated with it. Meanwhile, Ben Novack started his business, which "grew into a multimillion-dollar endeavor," said Seraydar.

Bernice’s husband died in 1985 and she settled down in Fort Lauderdale “for a normal life,” said Bernice’s friend and neighbor Rebecca Greer.

But normalcy gave way to tragedy. In April 2009, Bernice was found dead in her home.

Narcy Novack and Cristobal Velix featured on Sins of the South Episode 105

“Detectives that were there said she had a lot of injuries on her body,” said Carpentier. “Her teeth were all bashed in. She had broken knuckles. She had head injuries.”

Despite apparent violence and a blood-streaked scene, there were no signs of forced entry or theft. Bernice’s death was ruled accidental.

Wilson contacted his “equivalent down in Fort Lauderdale detective division,” he said. “I said my team and I firmly believe that she was murdered. You need to reopen this case. They said absolutely not.”

Narcy Novack’s history comes to light

Private detective Patrick Franklin said that when he heard Ben Novack was murdered, he immediately said “check the wife,” he told Sins of the South. 

Franklin knew about a violent event that occurred several years earlier. At the time, a panicked Novack called Seraydar about a home invasion.  

“He said, ‘I think Narcy was involved,” said Seraydar. “They tied him with rope. He said, ‘They stole all my business records they stole the safe.’”

Novack hired Franklin to find Narcy and the missing safe, which contained $300,000. When he tracked her down, she told all.

“Narcy said to me that she was in it from the beginning and she did it,” said Franklin. “She said, ‘He’s terrible. He likes to have other men have sex with me and watch me.’”

Narcy also shared pictures of “bikini-clad women who were amputees,” said Franklin. “I don't think anybody would want that kind of thing exposed in a courtroom.”

The documents and photographs were returned to Novack, while Narcy kept $150,000, per Sins of the South. The Novacks later reunited.

Investigators discovered that Novack had since taken a mistress named Rebecca Bliss and that he planned to leave Narcy.

“We learned that Narcy had known about Rebecca Bliss, because Narcy had contacted her,” said Carpentier. 

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Narcy Novack and her brother hired hit men

Detectives turned their attention to Narcy’s possible accomplices. They interviewed her brother, Cristobal Veliz, at his home in Philadelphia. 

They discreetly observed receipts for money orders to Alejandro Garcia, who, they learned, had a criminal record.

Using security footage from the Rye Brook hotel lobby, detectives placed Garcia and another man at the scene of the crime.

Questioned by police, Garcia said that he’d been hired by Veliz and Narcy. To kill Bernice “he got paid $600,” said Carpentier.

“He said, ‘I had instructions to make sure I bust out her mouth,’” Carpentier added. He said that he hid in her garage and when Bernice got out of her car he smashed her face with a monkey wrench.

Garcia left, believing she was dead. But Bernice later got up and went into her home, leaving a bloody trail to the spot where she'd eventually succumb to her wounds. 

Alejandro Garcia and Joel Gonzalez featured on Sins of the South Episode 105

Then, Veliz hired Garcia to kill Novack three months later. Garcia recruited his friend, Joel Gonzalez, to help. Gonzalez was the other man in the security footage.

At 6:30 a.m.  Narcy let the killers into the suite. “She told them to attack,” said Carpentier. They bludgeoned Novack with barbells and, per Narcy’s instruction, they cut out his eyes.

Investigators determined the motive for Bernice’s murder. When Novack died, she was in his will as a beneficiary. “Narcy was going to get cut,” said Wilson.

Masterminds and hit men go on trial

In exchange for their testimony, Garcia and Gonzalez pleaded to lesser charges and, respectively, received 17- and 10-year sentences, according to nbcnews.com.

Narcy Novack and Cristobel Veliz were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

May Abad was cleared of suspicion in both slayings, according to Sins of the South.

“The motive here was simple greed and vengeance,” said Seraydar.  

For more about the “Miami: Murder, Glamour & Greed” episode, watch Sins of the South, airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen.

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