Stein murder suspect wishes broker well at property showing on day of slay: voice mail

By Sean Gardiner | February 02, 2010 11:45PM



More than five hours after Linda Stein was believed to have been bludgeoned to death inside her Fifth Avenue apartment, her personal assistant left a message on the one-time punk rock manager turned celebrity real estate broker’s voice mail (listen to audio clip above).

“Hey Linda, it’s Natavia,” began the message, which was played at the murder trial of the assistant, Natavia Lowery, in Manhattan Supreme Court.

As the voice mail continued, Lowery, 28, told Stein that her ex-husband Seymour had called earlier that day then stated it was around 5:30 p.m. and that she was “leaving the office,” purportedly referring to the office of Prudential Douglas Elliman where Stein worked.

“I hope that the [property] showing goes well,” Lowery’s brief message ended, “and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

An official from Verizon testified today that he downloaded and recorded the phone messages Stein received after being subpoenaed to do so by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The time and date that Lowery’s message was left, according to the voice mail that was played back, was, “Tuesday, October 30th at 6:09 p.m.”

At least five hours prior to that, Stein, 62, was beaten to death with what prosecutors allege was a weighted yoga stick inside her apartment at 965 Fifth Avenue.

Prosecutors played Stein’s voicemail for the jury today in hopes of showing that the message left by Lowery was part of a scheme by the defendant to cover her tracks after she killed Stein. Prosecutors charge that the motivation for the grisly slay was that Stein had discovered that Lowery had secretly opened credit cards in the broker’s name and racked up more than $30,000 worth of bills and confronted her about it on Oct. 30. Lowery’s defense team is not denying that the assistant stole from Stein but maintain she didn’t kill Stein, despite a confession police obtained from Lowery in which she admitted to the murder.

The trial got off to a dramatic start last week when Stein’s family members testified, including daughter Mandy Stein, who found her “mommy” dead.

There has been no drama so far this week save from a receptionist from Elliman testifying yesterday that on the day Stein was murdered, Lowery called her and made a date to go to lunch. The receptionist, Minta John, testified that when they met at a pizzeria that day she noticed that Lowery was carrying Stein’s cell phone and asked her about it. The answer again contradicted the prosecution’s contention that Stein did not leave her building on the day she was killed. “She did not order anything. She didn’t eat,” John testified according to published reports. “I asked why she had Linda’s cell. She said she got it from her while Linda was out jogging.”

Using phone records from three separate telephone companies, security video tape and banking ledgers, prosecutors Shanda Strain and Joan Illuzzi-Orbon today plowed into the pedestrian job of laying the foundation for both the murder and theft charges being leveled against Lowery.

The prosecutors today first called Peter Carpenter, the doorman at Stein’s building, to the stand. Carpenter testified that he began work around 2:30 p.m. on the day that Stein was murdered and worked until 11 p.m. Carpenter said that Lowery was the only person who visited Stein that day, entering and leaving the building twice, and that Stein never emerged from her apartment during his shift.

Prosecutors also mapped the calls that Lowery made that day based on transmissions received to the nearest cell phone towers, from her cell phone and the cell phone that Lowery took from Stein in an attempt to place Lowery, at the very least, in the vicinity of the murder scene, Stein’s apartment, at the time of the killing.

Michael Thompson, a “legal specialist” from JPMorgan Chase, also outlined what prosecutors allege were several fraudulent checks drawn from Stein’s checking account, several of which were made out to Lowery or were used to pay off her bills. Thompson also said that just after 2 p.m. on the day that Stein was killed someone transferred $150,000 from her retirement savings account into her checking account after accessing Stein’s bank account through the internet. Soon after that someone walked into a Chase bank not far from Stein’s home in Manhattan and withdrew $800.

Prosecutors are expected to try and tie that computer transfer and the cash withdrawal to Lowery later in the trial. As witness after witness added pieces to the prosecution’s jigsaw puzzle today, the defense team could offer little in the way of cross examination to refute the prosecution’s case.

After court yesterday Lowery had inquired about pleading out to the top count of murder but was talked out of it by her attorneys, according to the Daily News. The attorneys and prosecutors both declined to comment to The Real Deal on that claim today. If convicted of the murder, Lowery faces 25 years to life in prison.