Linda Stein suspected the night before she was murdered that someone was stealing from her.
Ending the first week of testimony in the murder trial of Stein’s former assistant, Natavia Lowery, prosecutors called Mark Benecke, who worked with Ms. Stein selling pricey homes to the stars at real estate firm Douglas Elliman. The judge abruptly called a recess for the weekend after Mr. Benecke’s revelation.
Mr. Benecke, who met Stein haunting Studio 54 in the 1980s, said they were watching Monday Night Football when his friend confided her suspicions. “Mark, what would you say,” Stein asked, “if you thought someone was stealing from you and not doing right by you?”
The next day he called at 1 p.m. to ask his friend of 30 years to share a glass of birthday champagne. He was surprised when instead her assistant answered.
“Natavia answered the phone and said Linda was out taking a walk,” Mr. Benecke recalled. Security tapes from earlier in the trial show Stein did not leave her building that day.
Ms. Lowery, 28, is accused of killing her boss and stealing thousands of dollars for taxi rides and plane tickets, and to buy her way into the premiere of American Gangster. The defense conceded in its opening statement that Ms. Lowery is guilty of theft, but not of murder.
Earlier on Friday, Robert O’Donoghue, who supervised the crime scene after Stein was killed Oct. 30, 2007, testified that the apartment where he found her badly beaten body was otherwise orderly. Police spotted small dots of blood two feet from the victim, including on a photograph of her young granddaughter sitting on a nearby table. Stein was lying face down with a hood pulled over her head, which limited blood splatter, according to Mr. O’Donoghue.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Wilfredo Sta. Ana noted that there were in fact 13 swabs of blood taken from the crime scene. “You found blood here, and here, and here,” Mr. Sta. Ana pointed out each spot to the jurors, including an oil painting and desktop that were at least several feet away from the body.
Samantha Stein also testified Friday, answering questions about her dire financial situation at the time of her mother’s death. Defense attorneys have pointed at Stein’s two daughters’ tumultuous relationship with their mother and their financial dependence on her as possible motives (daughter Mandy testified last week).
Next week Mr. Benecke is set to describe the rest of his conversation with Stein, one of the last she had before her death. The prosecution also plans to call its final few witnesses, co-workers from Douglas Elliman.