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While most mothers were teaching their children their ABCs or how to tie their shoes, Sante Kimes was teaching her sons how to lie, cheat, and steal. Eventually, she taught one of them how to murder.
“‘Kenny, get to bed. Kenny, brush your teeth. Kenny, put the body in the f***ing duffle bag.’ I do as I am told. The obedient son. Always,” Sante’s son, Kenneth "Kenny" Kimes Jr., wrote in a 2018 piece for Narratively.
The body in the duffle bag was that of Irene Silverman, an 82-year-old New York socialite who had lived a charmed life until she met “Mommy and Clyde,” as the press dubbed Sante and Kenny Kimes.
Irene was a dancer in the corps de ballet at Radio City Music Hall before marrying wealthy real estate man Samuel Silverman in 1941. The couple later purchased a townhouse in the Upper East Side neighborhood Manhattan, situated just a stone’s throw from Central Park.
The Silvermans' home was in one of the most expensive locations in the city, and Irene loved to entertain and throw lavish dinner parties in her opulent new mansion. When Samuel died in 1980, Irene converted the townhouse into an apartment building, renting out the rooms.
On Independence Day weekend 1998, property manager Jeff Feig reported Irene missing after her housekeeping staff said she mysteriously vanished from the house. New York Police Department detectives searched the townhouse and the adjacent properties, but they found no sign of Irene.
In talking to Irene's household staff, detectives learned she had recently come into conflict with a new tenant named Manny Guerrin. He had moved into the building a month earlier, paying for the $6,000 a month apartment in cash.
Guerrin didn’t socialize with the other tenants and wouldn’t allow Irene’s housekeepers to clean his apartment. The only person allowed in or out was his personal assistant, an older woman named Eva Guerrero. When entering or leaving the building, he avoided its security cameras or covered his face.
A week after he moved in, Irene decided she wanted Guerrin gone.
“She mentioned to the staff how she’s going to get the guy in 1B out. She didn’t like him at all,” former NYPD detective Thomas Hovagim told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
When detectives searched Guerrin’s apartment, it was empty, but one of the staff witnesses was able to give a description for a police sketch, which was published by local media covering Irene's disappearance.
When FBI Supervisory Special Agent Emilio Blasse saw the report, he immediately called the NYPD.
“The night before, I had arrested two individuals that had in their possession documentation from Irene Silverman,” Blasse told “Snapped.” These included tax returns, healthcare information, and a property deed.
The two people in custody were Sante Kimes, 63, and her son, Kenny Kimes, 23, who had been apprehended in connection to an unrelated case.
"They had locked them up for a fugitive warrant from a stolen car case in Utah," former NYPD detective Thomas Ryan told "Snapped."
Sante, a single mother and veteran con artist who brought up her two sons in the trade, had a slew of prior arrests for various offenses, including petty theft and slavery charges.
“When I was like 9, 8, Mom would have me crawl through windows. I was small. I could break into houses and get what she wanted,” her eldest son, Kent Walker, told “Snapped.” “All the food we ate was shoplifted. She’d steal cars.”
As investigators dug deeper into the Kimes' background, they learned Sante and Kenny were also suspects in the murder of their family friend David Kazdin, whose body was found in a dumpster near the Los Angeles International Airport in March 1998, dead from a single gunshot to the back of the head.
Earlier that year, Kazdin had learned Sante forged his signature and took out a $280,000 mortgage in his name on her home in Las Vegas, Nevada. When the bank began investigating the case, Sante called Kazdin and threatened him, according to a 2000 report by Vanity Fair. Soon after, the house burned down in an arson fire, and Kazdin wound up dead.
California detectives were able to track down the Kimeses to a home in suburban Los Angeles, but when they went to question them, they had vanished without a trace. A drifter named Sean Little subsequently told authorities he had worked for the Kimeses and had gone with Kenny to Kazdin’s home that March.
Little said he heard a gunshot while waiting outside and that he then helped him dispose of Kazdin’s body, according to CNN.
Following Sante and Kenny's arrest by the FBI for the stolen car, Irene’s staff member identified them as Manny Guerrin and Eva Guerrero. Inside the Kimeses’ car, detectives found bullets, wigs, costumes, and books on how to obtain a deed.
Detectives later recovered a bag belonging to Kenny that was left at New York’s famed Plaza Hotel following Irene’s disappearance. It contained the deed to Irene’s townhouse, which appeared to sign over the property to the Kimeses.
“The director of security at the Plaza Hotel at the time called us and said, ‘Listen, I have a checked bag here that Kenny checked at the hotel,’” Hovagim told “Snapped.” “That was the key to this whole case.”
The bag also contained more than a dozen notebooks that detailed the entire con. They included Sante’s attempts at forging Irene’s signature, notes on her daily schedule, and her social security number. The evidence proved that the Kimeses intended to get rid of Irene and take possession of her multi-million dollar property.
Although authorities were unable to locate Irene's body, Sante and Kenny were both charged for her murder. They were also formally charged with the murder of Kazdin.
The Kimeses were tried in New York first, and in May 2000, they were found guilty of murder, robbery, burglary, conspiracy, grand larceny, illegal weapons possession, forgery, and eavesdropping in connection to Irene's death, reported The New York Times.
A month later, they received their sentences: Sante was given 120 years to life in prison while Kenny received a sentence of 126 years to life, according to The New York Times.
But that didn't put an end to the terror. During an October 2000 jailhouse interview, Kenny took reporter Maria Zone hostage, holding a ballpoint pen to her throat. He demanded his mother not be extradited to California, where the Kimeses faced the death penalty for the Kazdin murder, according to ABC News.
After four hours of negotiations, Kenny was overpowered by prison officials, and Zone was released unharmed.
In exchange for him and his mother being spared the death penalty, Kenny agreed to plead guilty to Kazdin's murder and testify against Sante. Kenny went on to tell investigators everything about their string of crimes, including details about Irene's killing.
He admitted to murdering Irene and dumping her body in New Jersey. Kenny said he strangled her after his mother shocked her with a stun gun.
Kenny also confessed to helping his mother murder Bahamian banker Syed Bilal Ahmed in 1996 after he became suspicious of their financial misdeeds. Kenny claimed they drugged him, drowned him, and then dumped his body in the ocean, according to the Associated Press. No charges have ever been filed against the Kimeses for Ahmed’s death.
Sante was found guilty of Kazdin’s murder in July 2004, reported the Los Angeles Times. Both she and Kenny were given additional life sentences as a result.
After more than a decade in prison, Sante died in her cell at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, New York in May 2014. She was 79 years old.
Now 45, Kenny will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Despite his efforts to help investigators, Irene’s body has never been found.
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