Hudson Valley's notorious crimes
Here's a look at the Hudson Valley's most notorious crimes in history.
March 10, 1980
Mistress slays "Scarsdale Diet" doctor
Jean Harris intended to kill herself after noted Scarsdale Diet doctor Herman Tarnower ended their 14-year affair for a younger mistress. Instead, Harris winds up shooting Tarnower five times after she barged into Tarnower’s bedroom and found lingerie belonging to his new, 30-year-old mistress, Lynne Tryforos, on the bed. She pleads innocent, claiming the gun had gone off by accident. But a jury finds her guilty, and she was sentenced to 15 years to life at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.
Gov. Mario Cuomo frees her in 1993, passing down the commutation of the 69-year-old former headmistress’ sentence only hours before she underwent heart bypass surgery. Having denied her parole on three occasions, Cuomo cites her work as a teacher of inmates, the impetus behind the establishment of an in-prison nursery for their children, and her failing health as reasons for her release.
Oct. 20, 1981
Radical groups kill 3 in Nanuet Mall robbery
Two Nyack police officers and a Brinks armored-car guard are killed by members of the 1960s radical groups the Weather Underground, and the Black Liberation Army in a shootout at the Nanuet Mall.
Nyack police officers Sgt. Edward O’Grady and officer Waverly “Chipper” Brown and Brinks guard Peter Paige are gunned down as they shoot it out with the robbers, triggering a manhunt by dozens of policemen through the streets of Nyack and neighboring communities. The gunmen get away with $1.6 million, which was recovered after an extensive car chase and crash in which a radical participant, Marilyn Jean Buck, shot herself in the leg in the Honda escape car.
Radical fugitive Kathy Boudin, who had become the face of the Weather Underground, spends 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder and robbery, and becomes the only parolee in the case. BLA member Samuel Brown receives 75 years to life after claiming he was innocent and asleep in the back of the red U-Haul truck used in the ambush, only to escape and jump in a Honda with others once the shooting started.
Med student mysteriously disappears
Kathleen Durst’s marriage had been deteriorating, but she stuck around because of the severity of Robert Durst’s abuse and an unfair pre-nup the millionaire Manhattan apartment house owner made her sign.
It turned out to be a big mistake as Kathleen, a fourth-year medical student who split time between the three residences Durst owned, including a house in South Salem, goes missing after attending a party in Westchester. Robert Durst walks into a police station four days later, claiming his wife went missing after he dropped her off at the Katonah train station for her trip back to the Manhattan apartment.
Durst eventually offers a $100,000 reward for information regarding the disappearance, much to the disbelief of Kathleen’s friends who believed Durst had done away with her. The case remains unsolved.
Durst is eventually picked up on Oct. 21, 2001, for stealing a sandwich, a newspaper, and a Band-Aid from a supermarket in Hanover Township, Penn., despite having more than $500 in his pocket. A background check finds the 58-year-old is wanted for a mutilation murder in Galveston, Texas, and is a prime suspect for another murder in Los Angeles. When apprehended, he is wearing a woman’s wig and false blond mustache. He pleads guilty to the case in Galveston.
Jan. 15, 1989
'Fatal Attraction' killing in Greenburgh
Carolyn Warmus had just about everything she ever wanted, except the man of her dreams. That would be her boyfriend, schoolteacher Paul Solomon, who happened to be married. Instead of finding herself a more appropriate, perhaps single, beau, the 27-year-old blond heiress goes to Solomon’s condo in Greenburgh with a 25-caliber Beretta and pumps nine bullets into his wife, Betty Jeanne; four in her back, as she lay on the floor. About four hours later, she has sex with Solomon in a parked car outside a bar where the couple belatedly celebrated Warmus’ birthday.
The case touches off a flurry of media attention as rapt spectators tag it the “Fatal Attraction” case, after the film about obsessive love starring Glenn Close and Michael Douglas. Warmus’ first trial ends in a hung jury, but a bloody cashmere glove that works its way into evidence in her second trial in 1992 leads to a maximum 25-to-life sentence for second-degree murder, which she is still serving in Bedford Hills.
Dec. 31, 1993
Newspaper heiress bludgeoned to death
Anne Scripps Douglas clearly married beneath her when the Scripps Howard newspaper heiress took as her second husband unemployed housepainter Scott Douglas in 1988. They had a daughter to go with Anne’s two from her first marriage to Rye stockbroker Anthony Morrell. Soon after the birth of Victoria, or “Tori” as they called her, Douglas started drinking heavily and was seen hitting Anne in public on at least one occasion.
As the abuse escalates, her two older daughters advise her to move out of her Bronxville home and file for divorce. But Douglas beats her to the punch, bludgeoning her to death with a hammer she keeps under her bed to stave off her husband’s nighttime scare tactics.
The woman lay in the hospital for a week before she was taken off life support. Hours after the murder, a police search turns up Douglas’ 1982 BMW on the Tappan Zee Bridge, the bloody hammer inside. Police drag the Hudson to no avail, but three months later a railroad worker finds Douglas’ body not far from where the car was parked. Police conclude Douglas leaped from the bridge. The case sparks changes in how domestic violence cases are handled after the family files an $11 million lawsuit against Westchester County for the New Rochelle Family Court’s refusal to grant an order for Douglas to move out after repeated incidents of violence.
Malcolm Shabazz, then 14, is led in handcuffs from family court in Yonkers in this file photo. The grandson of civil rights activist Malcolm X, Shabazz intentionally set a fire in 1997 that killed Betty Shabazz in her Yonkers apartment in 1997. Malcolm Shabaz was killed Thursday in Mexico on Thursday, officials said. (July 29, 1999)
Sept. 1, 1998
School hall monitor arrested in Poughkeepsie murders
Kendall L. Francois officially becomes one of Poughkeepsie’s most infamous murderers when a prostitute he was strangling escapes and runs from his home near Vassar College.
Police, handing out fliers on the disappearance of Catina Newmaster, heard that a woman who had been assaulted had just walked away.
The police find her, take her complaint, and head off to Francois’ house to question him. At the police station several hours later, Francois admits to cases involving several missing women, including Newmaster. He is arrested and charged with a single count of murder in Newmaster’s death.
Shortly after midnight on Sept. 2, investigators search Francois’ house and find several bodies. He is charged two months later with eight counts of murder, eight counts of second-degree murder, and attempted murder.
Francois pleads guilty, thereby avoiding the death penalty. Judge Thomas J. Dolan sentences him in 2000 to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. He remains in Attica Correctional Facility.
July 12, 2009
Millionaire murdered at Rye Brook Hilton
Florida millionaire Ben Novack Jr. comes to an unfortunate end at the Rye Brook Hilton under some curious circumstances. His wife Narcy tells police she discovered his body, bashed about the head with his eyes gouged out, as she arrived back in the room from breakfast.
The murder occurred some seven years after a tumultuous time in the couple’s 19-year marriage when Ben Novack placed a frantic call to police during which he described a 25-hour ordeal at the hands of several men who bound, gagged, blindfolded, and cuffed him to a chair as they robbed the house.
His wife was alleged to have given them access. Her story was much different, as she handed police explicit pictures as she explained the whole escapade was a sex game gone awry. After Novack was killed, police arrested Narcy in Florida and three other men, including her brother in New York. The sister and brother are accused of hiring hit men to kill the hotel executive and his elderly mother as part to a scheme to inherit his fortune. All are charged with murder, and Narcy is prohibited from obtaining Novack’s estimated $6 million in assets. Her trial has yet to begin as lawyers are arguing that certain evidence should be excluded.
May 13, 2010
Bloods, Latin Kings arrested in Newburgh
The two major gangs that turned Newburgh into one of the most violent cities per capita in the state takes a major hit as an army of 500 federal agents stages a dawn raid on their hangouts.
The crackdown culminates 16 months of undercover work and drug buys by the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. State and local police are also involved, as is the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The Bloods and Latin Kings had been responsible for most of the 16 homicides the two previous years in that city of 29,000 people. The raids net 60 federal indictments against suspected members and associates of the Bloods and 18 suspected members and associates of the smaller Latin Kings gang.