WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- About a week after Fontainebleau hotel heir Ben Novack Jr. was found dead by his wife, police in Miami Springs received a curious letter.
Unsigned, and written in Spanish, the letter asserted that both Ben Jr. and his mother, Bernice Novack, had been murdered as part of a plot by his wife to get his millions.
On Monday, the author of that anonymous letter was revealed, proving that blood is not always thicker than water.
One of Narcy Novack’s sisters, Letitia Toruno, wrote the letter. It described how Narcy Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, were the “assassins” who arranged the killings.
Toruno’s name was mentioned by prosecutors during a pre-trial conference among the lawyers, before the jury was brought into the courtroom. It’s not clear how, or if, the letter will be presented for the jury.
But the letter, which was mailed to Miami Springs police because Toruno lives near the city, was sent to police in Rye Brook, N.Y., where Ben Novack Jr.’s body was found beaten and bound on July 12, 2009. At the time, Narcy and Ben Novack were staying at the Rye Town Hilton, handling an Amway convention he arranged as part of his business, Convention Concepts Unlimited.
Both Narcy Novack, 54, and her brother, Veliz, 58, are charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the murder-for-hire crime.
On Monday, Veliz took the witness stand in his own defense and, for more than three hours, denied every piece of evidence that prosecutors said linked him to the killings.
Veliz’s attorney, Lawrence Sheehan, tried unsuccessfully to let the jury hear Veliz’s version of what happened. The judge blocked Veliz from testifying about conversations he had with others, including May Abad, Narcy’s daughter.
In opening arguments at the trial’s start, Sheehan told jurors that he would show that Abad killed her stepfather, then framed it on her mother and uncle so that she could inherit the family fortune.
Veliz testified that his Nissan Pathfinder had been stolen after Ben Novack was murdered, that his cellphone and debit card were always in his vehicle, implying that someone else used his truck, phone and card to commit the crimes.
With the jury out of the room, Sheehan mentioned that his client wanted to testify that Abad kidnapped Veliz and kept him a prisoner in a basement for 18 days before letting him go, telling him that if he told anyone she was behind the murders she would kill Veliz and his grandchildren.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Karas told Sheehan that Veliz could not tell the jury anything that Abad or anyone else may have told him. He was, however, allowed to describe how he was allegedly kidnapped and held prisoner by Abad.
Abad, who has been in semi-witness protection, has denied any involvement with the crimes and has not been charged. Early in the trial, she told The Miami Herald that her mother and uncle were lying to save their own skins.
The two hit men, Alejandro Garcia and Joel Gonzalez, and three other accomplices, have already testified that Veliz hired them, and paid Garcia and Gonzalez $15,000 to bludgeon Novack Jr. and to cut out his eyes.
They also said that Narcy Novack, the only person to use her key card in the hotel room that morning, let them into their suite and encouraged the blood bath, handing them a pillow to muffle her husband’s screams.