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Florida woman going on trial in 2009 killings

FILE - This 2010 file photo provided by the Broward Sheriff's Office shows Narcy Novack of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is charged with orchestrating the 2009 killings of her husband, Ben Novack Jr., and her mother-in-law, Bernice Novack.AP

Sneaky breast implants. Naked amputees. The Batmobile.

There are plenty of bizarre elements in the murder case against Narcy Novack, 54, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But they're unlikely to overshadow the grisly killings of her millionaire husband and his mother, which Novack allegedly orchestrated to get her hands on the family estate.

"This was nothing short of a diabolical plan by a woman who was intent on eliminating her husband and taking his family fortune for her own," Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said when Novack was indicted. Prosecutors believe Novack feared her husband was tiring of her and she'd be left with nothing.

Novack, a native of Ecuador, and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 57, of Philadelphia, have pleaded not guilty to a long list of federal charges. Their trial opens Monday in White Plains, New York.

The top count, murder in aid of racketeering, carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Novack's husband was Ben Novack Jr., son of the man who built the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach. Novack grew up in the hotel, which was a celebrity playpen in the 1950s and `60s and appeared in the movies "Scarface" and "Goldfinger."

Novack, who had his own successful travel company, was at the Hilton hotel in Rye Brook, New York., at an Amway convention he'd arranged, on July 12, 2009, the day he was killed.

Novack was found beaten to death in the suite he shared with his wife. His body had been pummeled with dumbbells, his eyes slit with a knife.

Narcy Novack told police she was downstairs having breakfast when he was killed. But prosecutors say she opened the door to the killers, gave them a pillow to put over Ben Novack's face and ordered them to cut out his eyes.

In crime-scene photos, Novack is bound at the wrists and knees with duct tape with a blood-soaked pillow beside him.

Two men have pleaded guilty to carrying out the killing and are expected to testify for the prosecution that they were recruited by Narcy Novack and her brother. Two other men have also pleaded guilty.

Three months earlier, Ben Novack's mother, Bernice Novack, 86, was found dead in her Fort Lauderdale home. The medical examiner originally called it an accident, although her jaw had been broken and blood was smeared on her car and the walls of her house. Photos show her lying in a large pool of blood.

After Narcy Novack was arrested in her husband's killing, the coroner said new information indicated Bernice Novack had been beaten to death with a monkey wrench. Prosecutors believe one of the men involved in the death of Ben Novack was also involved in his mother's.

Bernice Novack's death meant Ben Novack's share of his father's estate would be larger. When he was killed, Narcy Novack was in line to inherit.

But her daughter, May Abad, who was Ben Novack's stepdaughter, filed a Florida lawsuit that blocked Novack's access to the estate.

If Novack is convicted, the estimated $10 million estate would go principally to Abad's two sons. Abad is expected to be a prosecution witness.

Abad was involved in an incident that led to a defense attack on the integrity of the investigation. Prosecutor Elliott Jacobson revealed last month that a county detective on the case gave Abad $5,000 of the detective's money to relocate after Abad expressed fears for her safety.

The detective was taken off the case, but defense lawyer Howard Tanner said the payment shows, "This was a flawed and biased investigation from the start." Tanner said he may use the incident to challenge Abad's credibility.

The prosecution is likely to allude to a 2002 Fort Lauderdale police report in which Ben Novack alleged that his wife tied him to a chair for 25 hours and left with $440,000 in cash and his corporate files. She said it was part of a sex game and told police that her husband hit her often and once broke her nose.

According to the report, she said her husband took her to a plastic surgeon to repair her nose and when she woke up after the surgery she had breast implants she hadn't asked for.

"While she contends this was done against her will, she never made a complaint to anyone," the report says.

The report says Narcy Novack showed the police nude photos of women with artificial limbs "and went into a rather long and detailed statement of the sexual desires of Ben Novack."

It also mentions a roomful of Batman collectibles. Ben Novack's collection of Batman memorabilia, including a replica Batmobile, was estimated to be worth more than $1 million.

No charges were filed. Officers said in the report they were unsure about the Novacks' credibility.

Information about the 2002 incident has been ruled inadmissible for the trial, but Narcy Novack's comments to police afterward will be allowed.

In the days immediately after her husband's killing, Narcy Novack discussed some of the same issues during lengthy questioning by police -- without a lawyer. A video recording was made public.

Novack denied any role in the killing, saying, "Only a monster can do this kind of evil thing." But when told that a broken piece from her eyeglasses was found at her husband's murder scene, Novack said, "If this put me to the electrical chair let's do it right now, you know why, because that would put me out of my misery."

The questioning meandered for hours and included, in the words of Judge Kenneth Karas, "some remarkably intimate details" of the Novacks' sex practices and what Narcy Novack said was her husband's Batman "obsession."