NEW YORK – A former Playboy centerfold involved in a custody battle apparently jumped with her 7-year-old son to their deaths from the 25th floor of a Manhattan hotel, law enforcement officials said Friday.
The pair checked into the penthouse suite of the Gotham Hotel at about 6 p.m. Thursday, police said at a brief news conference. They fell 23 floors, and were found on a second-floor balcony at about 8:15 a.m. Friday in the rear courtyard of the hotel.
Law enforcement officials identified the woman as Stephanie Adams and her son as Vincent. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The officials said she was involved in a custody dispute over Vincent with her estranged husband, a Manhattan chiropractor named Charles Nicolai, and that police had been called to their home several times in the past few months.
Nicolai and her estranged husband had been in "a very tough custody case," said Raoul Felder, a divorce lawyer who represented her for a time. The standoff was contentious enough that the former couple handed off their son to each other at a police precinct, an arrangement that's unusual but not unheard of, Felder said.
Felder said he had been friends with Adams for 20 years but stopped representing her in the divorce case a couple of months ago. Recently, she had been hoping to go to Europe to be with a boyfriend there, and that had become an issue in the case, he said.
Still, "she was never depressed while I knew her. She had certain problems, but depression wasn't one of them," Felder said.
Her husband's lawyer didn't immediately respond to an inquiry about the case. A receptionist who answered the phone at Nicolai's office said Nicolai would not comment and was unreachable.
Felder recalled her as "sweet and ultra-polite" — she always called him "Mr. Felder" despite their long friendship. She would sometimes stop by his office to say hello, bringing her son, who loved to play with a Superman statue in the office, Felder recalled.
And she routinely sent him birthday cards, until his birthday passed this month without one.
Adams was Playboy's "Miss November" centerfold in 1992. The New York Post profiled Adams in 2013, saying that she had by then written more than 25 self-help books, ran an online beauty products company and managed the finances in her husband's office. She appeared again in Playboy in 2003, and she had also worked with Elite Model Management and had two business degrees, according to the Post profile.
"The stereotypes are sexist and unfair," Adams told the Post in the profile. "Just because I look a certain way and have expensive tastes, it doesn't mean I'm shallow. Style and looks don't mean lack of brains, sweetheart!"
Adams and her husband were sued in 2013 by a massage therapist at the chiropractic office who claimed she was fired because Nicolai said his wife could become jealous because the therapist was "too cute."
The Gotham Hotel is on 46th street, about four blocks from Grand Central Terminal.