Former personal assistant Natavia Lowery is on trial for the murder of real estate broker to the stars Linda Stein, but a jury must choose between distinct theories about the crime.
The trial is one of the most sensational in recent Manhattan history, because Stein, 62, was a near legendary music promoter in the 1970s and a well-known, high-powered New York real estate broker.
With her then-husband Seymour Stein, founder and president of Sire Records, they discovered artists like Madonna, the Talking Heads and the Ramones. Elton John is godfather to a daughter.
Linda Stein later went into real estate and parlayed her music contacts into a career that catered to the upper-bracket needs of superstars like Madonna, Sting and Billy Joel.
Stein was found dead, beaten severely with a blunt object, in the living room of her expansive $3 million Manhattan apartment in Oct. 2007.
Lowery, her personal assistant immediately came under suspicion.
After first Lowery laid tried to lay the groundwork for a temporary insanity defense with a stunning confession. Now she maintains her innocence, and claims the confession was obtained under duress.
But prosecutors assert that she is a cunning thief who weaved a cover-up within a cover-up to create an alibi that hopefully would thwart her conviction.
The first cover up, Stein’s murder, was allegedly designed to hide another crime, Lowery’s alleged plundering of Stein’s bank account, according to prosecutors.
The second cover up was supposed to conceal her hand in the murder.
Lowery left voice mails on Stein’s phone, allegedly pretending Stein was still alive after her murder. The ruse, according to prosecutors, was solely designed to establish an alibi.
If convicted, Lowery faces 25 years to life in prison.
In the latest development, Seymour Stein was called to the stand Thursday (Feb. 4) by Manhattan prosecutors. He detailed his ex-wife’s last day alive — and Lowery’s whereabouts, as she worked for Stein as a personal assistant.
Stein recalled speaking briefly to his ex-wife at 10:16 a.m. on the day of the murder, Oct. 30, 2007.
He said he called Stein again six hours later, and Lowery answered. She said her boss was out running.
By then, however, prosecutors assert, Lowery had already beaten Linda Stein and fractured her skull.
Indeed, according to her own dramatic, videotaped confession, Lowery admitted fatally beating Stein with a Yoga exercise bar.
She claimed she snapped (who wouldn’t) after Stein insulted and cursed at her and blew marijuana smoke in her face.
But Lowery has since recanted her confession and claims it was illegally obtained.
“In its pursuit of Natavia Lowery, the government conducted a lawless and illegal investigation,” defense lawyer John Christie wrote in court papers.
No matter. Prosecutors are pursuing the third theory, that Natavia Lowery is a cunning thief .
Heavily in debt, they say, Lowery stole more than $30,000 from Stein, using forged checks and other means to pay student loans and other bills.
When Linda Stein discovered the theft and confronted Lowery, she was beaten to death to cover up the crime.
Only minutes after the murder, Lowery casually used Stein’s ATM card to withdraw $800 from her account, prosecutors assert.
“Natavia Lowery is a thief and a cold-blooded killer who ended her victim’s life to cover up the constant and deep violation of trust,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon argued in court papers.
Before her confession, Lowery told yet another story, claiming that a masked stranger attacked and killed Stein and warned her not to tell anyone about it.
On Tuesday, however, the Manhattan jury heard the voice mail message that Lowery had left — allegedly for a corpse.
“Hey Linda, it’s Natavia,” Lowery said on the message. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m leaving work at 5:30.”
Lowery continued to make small talk and ended by trying to establish a timeline that would clear her of the murder.
“If you get this message before 5:30 you can just call me. If not, talk to you later,” she said.
Prosecutors alleged the call was made at 6 p.m. after Stein was already dead.
The trial is continuing.