Stein Murder: Relatives Say Assistant’s Confession Was Forced

Brooklynite Natavia Lowery, assistant to 62-year-old star real-estate broker Linda Stein, is held without bail on charges she beat Stein to death after a confrontation in her boss’ Fifth Avenue apartment. Ms. Lowery, 26, had been her assistant for four months.

The medical examiner “says she died of multiple skull fractures, and so we’re going to charge that the death occurred because the defendant hit her six or seven times in the head with a hard object," Barbara Thompson, director of communications for the District Attorney’s office, told The Observer Friday.

As the weekend progressed, police accounts of the altercation that led to the alleged beating death emerged from police statements about her confession, provoking a weekend storyline that Stein’s use of a racial epithet led Ms. Lowery to murder. According to The Daily News, here’s Ms. Lowery’s account of her confrontation with her boss:

Stein, 62, who was battling cancer, started blowing pot smoke in her face and berating her as she worked on the computer, Lowery told cops.

"Get the f—ing e-mails! How can you be so f—ing slow!" Stein supposedly bellowed, a police source said.

Stein, who had private yoga sessions in her $2.5 million pad, was waving a 4-pound strength-building yoga stick at Lowery as she yelled, the assistant told cops.

After Lowery retrieved the e-mails, Stein offered to buy her lunch as a peace offering.

"I’ve got my own money. I don’t need you to buy me lunch," the assistant said indignantly.

"Black people don’t have any money," Stein retorted, according to Lowery. "Save your money and I’ll buy you lunch."

Of course, all of that comes from a confession police say they got from Ms. Lowery. Stein is no longer around to dispute the details; and now Ms. Lowery’s family is portraying the confession as bogus.

"They took her in the room and told her her mother would be filling out a missing persons report if she didn’t confess," said Natavia Lowery’s aunt, Julia Carrow.

Carrow, 43, also said her 26-year-old niece begged cops to allow her to call her family, but to no avail.

"They wouldn’t let her call her mother or her lawyer," said Carrow, of Dalzell, S.C. "They wouldn’t let her call no one and kept her in there all night. Then they came out and said she’d confessed."

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the confession was not forced.

"She contacted detectives herself and voluntarily answered questions," Browne said.

But the details of the confession–and the confrontation it describes–ring true to friends and family. Stein’s daughter, Samantha Stein Wells, told police that Stein had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was taking drugs that exacerbated her already famous mood swings.

And as for Ms. Lowery–if her confession is admissible, it describes a very angry woman.

"She must have been so overwhelmed with anger,” the Stein family lawyer, Ed Hayes, told The Observer Friday when speaking about the murder, “because there was no reasonable expectation that she could have gotten away with this… I was in homicide in the Bronx at the height of the crime-wave, I can never remember one woman beating another to death," Mr. Hayes said. "Drug addicts, impoverished, terrible background, I’ve never seen that… You have to keep banging away.”

But Ms. Carrow, the aunt of Ms. Lowery who has described the confession as forced, had discussed Stein with her niece.

"Natavia thought it was funny that she’d be cursing out everyone," she said. "She didn’t care who they were."

She said her family gives its "deepest condolences to the Steins."

"We truly feel bad about what happened," Carrow said. "But they have the wrong person."

“She had a nice smile,” the real estate broker Jerry Miller, one of Stein’s neighbors, told The Observer of Ms. Lowery last week. “She was an attractive black girl. She seemed very nice.”

Four years ago Ms. Lowery was a member of North Carolina State University’s Black Finesse Modeling Troupe, according to the group’s Web site.

The assistant, apparently trusted with the Social Security numbers and bank account information of Stein’s clients, was reportedly charged last December with identity theft. Misdemeanor charges were dropped.

Police are saying that Ms. Lowery has admitted to cleaning up the crime scene and leaving the apartment with Ms. Stein’s cell phone and ATM card, which she later used to withdraw $800. As the investigation proceeded with interviews of 60-70 people, they took a section of bathtub drainpipe and of the front door to the apartment away for analysis.