The jury will start deliberations today in Manhattan Supreme Court in the murder case of star Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Linda Stein after closing arguments yesterday in which the prosecution and defense both admitted much of the confession of Stein’s accused killer was made up.
It was on the subject of who did the fabricating, however, where the two sides diverged wildly.
Both sides admitted that Linda Stein was not killed with a weighted yoga stick, as her assistant and accused killer, Natavia Lowery, had stated in both her written and videotaped confessions. Nor did the former punk rock group manager-turned-real estate broker blow marijuana smoke in Lowery’s face setting off the fatal Oct. 30. 2007 bludgeoning inside Stein’s Fifth Avenue apartment. And the number of times that Lowery, 28, allegedly admitted striking Stein was off. According to Lowery’s confessions, she said either six or 10 but the medical examiner estimated somewhere north of two dozen.
Defense attorney Thomas Giovanni tried to convince the jury that these “guesses” and “lies” were fed to Lowery by detectives and she only begrudgingly regurgitated these details as well as her “I did it” confession to stop what had been a relentless 12 hours of “interrogation.”
“That’s the definition of a false confession,” he told the jurors during his 90-minute closing arguments yesterday.
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, who spoke for more than two hours, agreed that the highlights of Lowery’s confessions were either not true or inaccurate. It wasn’t the detectives who were “spinning this tale,” she said, but Lowery, who she variously called “calculating, “manipulative” and “cold-blooded.”
Illuzzi-Orbon, who asked the questions during Lowery’s videotaped confession Nov. 9, 2007, admitted that “unfortunately she even fooled me.” At that point, the police and prosecutors had yet to uncover the fact that Lowery stole more than $30,000 from Stein by forging credit cards in Stein’s name and withdrawing money out of Stein’s bank accounts.
“I never stole from Linda,” Lowery told Illuzzi-Orbon during that interview.
As for the real murder weapon, Illuzzi-Orbon admitted, “we don’t know what it is. There’s only one person in this room who knows what it is — it’s that woman over there,” she said pointing at Lowery.
As expected, the prosecution made a big deal out of the fact that the security cameras at Stein’s apartment building photographed Lowery entering the building on the day of the murder wearing her cargo pants normally and then exiting over an hour later with those pants turned inside out.
“There wasn’t much blood but, oh yeah, she got it on her and now she’s in a dilemma,” said the prosecutor who added a short time later, “Now she has a wardrobe problem.”
Giovanni, who gave his closing statement first, anticipated the inside-out pants attack and tried to mitigate the damage. He didn’t say why Lowery decided to wear her pants inside out that day but said, “it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.”
He said the killer hit Stein once or twice while she was upright. Crouching, Giovanni said, the killer then stood or kneeled on Stein’s back and began hitting her with an object. He slapped his hands 22 times to demonstrate the brutality of the attack and speculate that such an attack would produce an excessive amount of blood splatter.
“Whoever did this was covered in blood,” he said.
In the middle of his demonstration, Stein’s daughter Samantha began crying and left the courtroom in tears followed by her sister Mandy, who was the person who found her dead mother.
Giovanni also argued that once the police zeroed in on Lowery, they stopped investigating and even gave a pass to a roofer working in the building who had gotten into an argument with Stein and who when interviewed the day after the murder had a cut on his hand that he claimed was a work accident.
Before she even began her closing, Illuzzi-Orbon tried unsuccessfully to have Lowery’s 18-month-old baby banned from the courtroom saying it was an obvious attempt to elicit sympathy from the jurors.
Then using videotapes and phone records to track Lowery’s immediate movements, the prosecutor’s closing arguments yesterday methodically traced Lowery’s movements during and after the time prosecutors believe Stein was murdered. Lowery entered Stein’s apartment at 11:56 p.m. on the day of the murder and left at 1:19 p.m. with a large red Christie’s bag that she said probably contained the murder weapon and maybe Lowery’s other bloody clothes, the prosecutor said. A few minutes later, Lowery walked into a Gap clothing store six blocks away. She was no longer carrying the bag. It appears as if she asked a salesman a question to which he shakes his head and Lowery walked out. Illuzzi-Orbon said that Lowery next possibly went to another store but by 2:04 p.m. was back in the Madison Avenue apartment of Elliman where used a computer to transfer $150,000 out of Stein’s retirement account and into Stein’s savings account.
The real tragedy, Illuzzi-Orbon said, was that Stein had struggled so hard to come back from battling breast cancer, which was one of the reasons Stein was forced to obtain and put her trust in a personal assistant. Lowery repaid that trust, Illuzzi-Orbon said, by stealing from Stein “the second she got into the lady’s apartment. And then she stole from her one last time and she steals the only thing that Linda desperately wanted: her life.”