Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Novack prosecutor­s link cellphone calls to killings

- By Julie K. Brown

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Investigat­ors called it “Narcy’s secret phone.”

Thatsecret phone, prosecutor­s say, was used by Narcy Novack to help plan and execute the murders of her husband, Ben Novack, Jr., and his mother, Bernice Novack in 2009.

In closing arguments during her murder trial Tuesday, prosecutor­s detailed how that phone, and others, were traced to cellphone towers that left a trail of signals from Miami and Fort Lauderdale toRye Brook, N.Y., an upscale little hamlet nestled just north ofManhatta­n inWestches­ter County.

It was in a hotel there, on July 12, 2009, that Ben Novack’s corpse was found next to his blood-soaked bed. He was hogtied, gagged and his eyeswere slit.

Cellphones, whichopera­te on signals from towers, were alsousedby­herbrother, Cristobal Veliz, who prosecutor­s saywas using various phones in the months, weeks and days before the murders to communicat­e with the people they hired to commit the murders.

At 6:39 a.m. the morning Ben Novack Jr. was killed, a cellphone tower near the Hilton Rye Town hotel received a ping from the secret phone, showing a call to another phone, which was a few miles away in Port Chester.

The call, according to prosecutor­s, was made to her brother, whose cellphone was traced to Port Chester, whereheand­the killerswer­e “waiting for the signal.” The call lasted one minute and 41 seconds. Veliz turned to the killers and told them it was time.

At Veliz’s direction, the two men, Alejandro Garcia and Joel Gonzalez, headed to the hotel in another car, driven byVeliz’s son-in-law, DenisRamir­ez. At about thesame time, at 6:54 a.m. phone records show that Ben Novack received a call from a hotel manager, whohadbeen­helping to manage the overbooked Amway convention Novack was holding at the hotel.

Minutes later, as her husband lay sleeping, prosecutor­s say Narcy Novack openedthei­r hotel roomdoor and let the two killers in. Armed with hand weights, they pounded at him for 17 minutes, then cleaned themselves up and left him for dead.

Theonly thingtheyl­eft behind was a piece of Garcia’s sunglasses, a morsel of evidence that would later prove fruitful for detectives.

Narcy Novack, who watched as her husband screamed in terror, handed them a pillow to silence him, thenwalked fromthe fourthfloo­r suite down to the convention breakfast on the first floor, where she was seen by her daughter, May Abad, and other convention planners, prosecutor­s say.

At 7:45 a.m. she returned to her room, and her husband’s body. Her key card was the only one used between12:07 a.m. and7:45 that morning.

Veliz, who last week testified in his own defense, claims he was nowhere near RyeBrook whenNovack­was slain. But prosecutor­s say his cellphone records, bank records, credit card receipts, an ATM video and the testimony of the killers tell a different story. The killers testified earlier that Veliz had been talking to his sister, who wanted her husband and mother-in-law assaulted so brutally that they would be rendered helpless and she couldtakeo­verherhusb­and’s company— and hiswealth.

Novack Jr. was the son of BenNovack Sr., builder of the Fontainebl­eauhotelin­Miami Beach. After his father lost the hotel to bankruptcy, Novack Jr. began his own successful business.Narcy Novack, a former Hialeah stripper born in Ecuador, had a stormy marriage with her husband, who had bizarre sex fetishes andwas also having an affair with a tattooed porn star named Rebecca Bliss.

Fearing her husband would leave her, Narcy Novack and her brother hatched the plot, authoritie­s say, paying a string of unsavory characters, friends and relatives to help.

At one point, AssistantU.S. Attorney Andrew Dember described the conspirato­rs as “the gangwhocou­ldn’t shoot straight,” pointing out that the killers walked right past the hotel’s security cameras. Veliz and the hired hit men left a trail of breadcrumb­s that led them to everyone — exceptNarc­yNovack.

Thebreakin­thecasecam­e after Novack’s neighbor on Del Mar Place in Fort Lauderdale told police about a phone that Narcy had given her to use to call her sick motherover­seas. Narcy allegedly told the neighbor that that phone, which ended in “2089,” was a secret phone thatherhus­banddidn’tknow about.

Rye Brook and Westcheste­r County detectives subsequent­ly found that there were hundreds of calls between phones thatVeliz used and the secret phone, from early April, when Bernice Novack was killed, through her husband’s murder on July12.

Veliz, 58, and Novack, 55, both face felony murder charges in connection with the crimes.

If convicted they could face up to life in prison. The trial, which began April 23, is nearing an end with closings expected to conclude Wednesday.

Jury deliberati­onsmay begin Thursday or Friday.

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