Beyond the Headlines
Wednesdays at 8.30pm AEST from June 13 until July 25
On the morning of 12 July 2009, the body of wealthy entrepreneur and businessman Ben Novack, 53 years of age, was found bound, horrifically beaten and suffocated in the penthouse suite of the Hilton Hotel in Rye Brook, New York. The ferocity of the fatal attack shocked police, particularly when it was realised that his eyes had been gouged out – whilst he was still alive.
The investigations that followed lifted the lid on a bizarre world of deviant sex, infidelities, jealousy and violence – resulting in a case that created massive national publicity.
Ben Novack – the man
Ben Novack was heir to a multi- million – dollar estate involving ownership of the glamorous Fontainebleau Hotel, an iconic landmark on Miami Beach that had been opened by his father, Ben Novack Sr. in 1954.
The hotel had featured in famous movies and had been a “pit-stop” for the rich and famous for decades, including Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, Jo Di Maggio and Frank Sinatra.
However the hotel had been forced into liquidation, and Novak Jr. stated a new business – that of organising and hosting large business conventions – a highly successful endeavour that made him extremely wealthy. As a quirky sideline he was also an enthusiastic purchaser of “Batman” memorabilia, owning one of most valuable collections in the world.
A Violent Marriage
The handsome Novak was well known as a “womaniser”, but he appeared to be finally settling down in 1991, when he married Ecuadorian Narcisa Veliz Pacheco, (Narcy) an exotic dancer.
However a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship followed across the next 18 years with Novak’s prenuptial agreement a major cause of resentment for Narcy.
On one occasion in 2002 she hired several men to break into Novak’s room where he was tied to a chair and robbed. Narcy admitted she was behind the bizarre robbery, but the two later reconciled.
During his marriage Novak reportedly had several extra marital affairs and at the time of his murder was romantically associated with porn actress Rebecca Bliss.
The Death of Bernice Novack
Just three months before Novack’s murder, the body of his mother, 87-year-old Bernice Novack was found dead in her home at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with the police investigation concluding her death to be accidental. But following the murder of her son, the police began linking the two events, with Narcy emerging as a prime suspect in both. Investigators finally concluded that Bernice Novack’s death was not an accident, but straight out murder, and the two killings were likely connected. Narcy’s daughter, May Abad who was also Novak’s stepdaughter – strongly suspected her mother’s involvement in both killings.
Murder Charges and Trial
Narcy was eventually charged with the murders of Ben Novak and her mother-in-law with her main motivation being the acquisition of his estate. She was afraid that he was about to leave her for his mistress, and in addition she was intensely jealous of this relationship.
Narcy had enlisted the help of her brother, Cristóbal Véliz in the murders, and he, in turn, had been assisted by three friends.
In their 2012 trial, both Narcy and her brother were found guilty of a string of offences, including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, domestic violence and stalking. Both received life sentences without parole.