Natavia Lowery broke down just before dawn in a Lower East Side precinct, after detectives told her that security footage disproved her story about a masked intruder clad in black.
“I want to die here,” Ms. Lowery began her written confession of the murder of real estate broker to the stars Linda Stein, made around 6:40 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2007, which was read by Detective Kevin Walla in court on Tuesday.
While being questioned, the personal assistant, then 25, filed her nails with a letter opener, until police took her purse, cell phone and other possessions, according to the detective’s testimony. After that, she sat hunched with her head in her arms every time her questioners left the room.
Prosecutors describe a cold-blooded murder committed by a thief who knew she was about to get caught. But in her confession, Ms. Lowery told of an act of passion committed after a bitter argument with her boss. “[Stein] was blowing [marijuana smoke] in my face,” she wrote in the statement Detective Walla read in court. “I told her, ‘Stop. I can’t function right now’ … She should have left me alone.”
Ms. Lowery described beating her boss with a yoga stick, which Stein was holding. “It wasn’t supposed to hurt like that,” she wrote in the confession read by Detective Walla.
Ms. Lowery also hinted in her account that the killing was motivated by Stein’s discovery that her assistant had stolen thousands of dollars from her.
When Ms. Lowery offered to buy her own lunch, Stein replied, “I never heard a black person say [they can save money],” according to the confession.
Detective Walla’s full day of testimony came after court ground to a halt on Monday. Ms. Lowery made an emotional plea to trade her team of three attorneys from Neighborhood Defender Services in Harlem for Paul Brennar, a lawyer hired by her family. Judge Richard Carruthers denied the request, but permitted Mr. Brennar to sit at the defense table as an adviser.
On Tuesday, Ms. Lowery’s young defense team launched their most spirited attack yet.
“There are a number of ways to solve a murder, aren’t there?” Thomas Giovanni began his cross-examination of Detective Walla.
“None of Ms. Stein’s blood was found on my client’s possessions,” he pressed the detective in a rapid-fire line of questioning. “There were no witnesses to the incident. No hair and fiber were found on Linda Stein’s body. No DNA connecting my client to this case, correct?”
The powerful Manhattan real estate broker made a lot of money and enemies on the way to the top, Mr. Giovanni said, both of which could have motivated a number of people to kill her.
Stein’s younger daughter, Mandy, was already questioned on the witness stand about her financial difficulties. She was found with blood on her hands the night of the Oct. 30, 2007 murder, after trying to roll her mother over to perform CPR. Police allowed her to wash it off before forensic investigators arrived, Mr. Giovanni noted. He also asked the detective about possible motives of ex-lovers, construction workers who Ms. Stein had berated at her building at 965 Fifth, and disgruntled co-workers.
“You need to get an understanding of who Linda Stein was,” the defense attorney said, “To get an understanding of who would want to hurt her.”