The jurors who have been listening to the gruesome details of the murders of Narcy Novack's husband and mother-in-law ended their first day of deliberations Monday without reaching a verdict.
The jury of eight men and four women ended its work at about 5:40 p.m. Monday. The panel began its deliberations at about 11 a.m. after receiving instructions from U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas.
The jury will be back Tuesday morning at the federal courthouse in White Plains to sift through eight weeks of testimony, documents, videotapes and crime scene photographs as it attempts to reach verdicts on the 17 charges contained in the 34-page indictment. One of the 17, racketeering, contains 11 criminal acts -- including murder and robbery -- that must be weighed as well, making jurors' work even more laborious.
Novack, 55, a Florida resident, and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 58, of Brooklyn, are accused of sending two hit men to kill her millionaire husband, Ben Novack Jr., 53, on July 12, 2009, in a Rye Brook Hilton hotel suite -- and his 86-year-old mother, Bernice Novack, in her Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home, three months earlier -- to inherit an $8 million family fortune.
The two-month trial in White Plains has had its share of drama.
Twice, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Karas issued gag orders when Narcy Novack and Veliz contacted News 12 from the Westchester County Jail to complain about a variety of issues and declare their innocence. In court, the proceedings were interrupted on more than one occasion by outbursts from the pair.
Friday's session ended with another tirade from Veliz, who accused federal investigators of causing the death of his girlfriend's mother because they questioned her. He started to yell but was cut off by Karas, who ordered deputy U.S. marshals to hustle Veliz out of the courtroom. The jury was not present, and details of Veliz's accusations were not immediately revealed.
Ben Novack Jr. was the son of the founder of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Narcy Novack feared that her husband -- who was having an affair with 40-year-old ex-stripper and porn actress Rebecca Bliss -- was planning to leave her, prosecutors argued.
A prenuptial agreement called for Narcy Novack to receive just $65,000, they said.
In his rebuttal Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Jacobson told the jury that the "sadistic" murders were fueled by Narcy Novack's greed and desire for revenge.
Lawyers for Narcy Novack and Veliz have pointed the finger at May Abad, Narcy Novack's 36-year-old daughter, as the one who hired confessed killers Joel Gonzalez and Alejandro Garcia so that Abad and her two sons could get Ben Novack Jr.'s millions.
Veliz's frequent outbursts have centered on his assertion that Abad plotted the killings.
Abad, who was not accused and did not testify, has denied any role in the slayings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember scoffed at Veliz's accusations, telling jurors that the hit men have "no relationship to May Abad. They don't even know who she is."
Gonzalez and Garcia pleaded guilty and testified against Veliz and Narcy Novack, both of whom could face life in prison if convicted.
Garcia said he was tapped by Veliz for the slayings and that Veliz told him he was working with Narcy Novack.
Garcia admitted to bashing Bernice Novack's skull in, breaking her jaw and knocking out her teeth as he hit her five times with a plumber's wrench in the garage of her home on April 5, 2009.
He and Gonzalez testified that they beat Ben Novack Jr. to death with dumbbells in the suite bedroom. Narcy Novack -- who allegedly let them into the room -- told them to open her dead husband's eyelids and slice his eyeballs with a utility knife, they told the jury.
"This was a well-planned-out plot," Dember said.
Ben Novack Jr. was in Rye Brook running a convention for Amway Global. He had built his company, Convention Concepts Unlimited, from the ground up into a multimillion-dollar operation organizing conventions for Amway. He also had one of the world's largest collection of Batman memorabilia, including a full-scale Batmobile.
Defense attorneys noted Gonzalez's and Garcia's conflicting testimony, slamming them as sociopaths and liars.
"These are monsters, and these are the people the government would have you rely on," said Howard Tanner, Narcy Novack's lawyer. "You can't rely on their testimony, and if you can't, you can't find guilt."