When Manhattan businessman Howard Pilmar, 40, was found stabbed and slashed to death in his office supply business on March 21, 1996, police reportedly said it was going to be an easy case to solve.
Tuesday, more than 21 years later, prosecutors and police finally announced the indictment of Pilmar’s wife Roslyn and her brother Evan Wald on second-degree murder charges in a killing investigators indicated was motivated by her need for money.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., said in a statement that the murder was one that shocked New Yorkers and was broken by his cold case unit and NYPD detectives.
Roslyn Pilmar, now 60, was taken into custody Tuesday and ordered held without bail by Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Jill Konviser. During her arraignment on the charges, Pilmar, dressed in a denim jacket and jeans, answered “not guilty” when asked how she plead. She then spent most of the 15-minute court session with her head lying on the table in front of her as she leaned forward in her seat, surrounded by court officers.
Wald, 43, was arrested in Virginia and was to be arraigned at a later date, said assistant district attorney Elizabeth Lederer. She noted that he was attempting to start a new life in Las Vegas.
In court, Lederer, admitted that while the case was circumstantial it was “the most compelling case I have ever seen.” She said the grand jury indicted the pair after hearing evidence from 38 witnesses and after DNA linked Wald to the crime scene. Officials didn’t elaborate on when the DNA match to Wald was made.
“We have so much more, we have a very compelling case,” Lederer told Konviser. Lederer noted that the night before Pilmar’s body was found he had a meeting with his wife and her brother in his office.
According to additional statements by Lederer in court, at about the time of the murder, Roslyn Pilmas had embezzled $200,000 from a dentist she worked for and had an additional debt of $15,000. The prosecutor suggested that those debts may have been the motive for the crime, noting that all of Pilmar’s debts were repaid after the death of her spouse.
After Howard Pilmar was found dead in his office on East 33rd Street, his wife received almost $1.5 million in life insurance proceeds, ownership of the office supply business, a summer home, an Upper East Side apartment and custody of the couple’s then 10 year-old son, said Lederer.
Defense attorney Fran Hoffinger argued that Pilmar be freed on $75,000 bail. But Konviser declined to grant bail, citing the seriousness of the case.