Nearly a month into the trial of Linda Stein’s accused killer, jurors finally heard details of how the 62-year-old real estate broker to the stars was killed.
Stein’s attacker beat her 24 times, continuing even after she was lying paralyzed and unconscious on the floor of her Fifth Avenue co-op, according to Tuesday’s testimony by a coroner from the New York City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. Showing a series of disturbing autopsy photos of Stein’s badly bruised and bloodied head and her broken neck, Dr. Michelle Slone said the victim must have been hit at least two dozen times, but it could have been as many as 80.
The 5’3″, 132-pound Stein was unconscious by the time she fell, according to Dr. Slone, who examined the body Oct. 31, 2007, after Mandie Stein found her mother dead in her apartment at 10:30 p.m. the night before. There were no bruises on Stein’s hands to indicate she fought back.
Stein had five lacerations on her head, caused by a blunt metal object, according to the coroner. Her neck was snapped at some point in the beating, likely from someone stepping on it, after which she would have been paralyzed.
Family members of both the victim and defendant flinched when prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon showed autopsy photos of Stein’s face and body, so badly beaten it was unrecognizable. Natavia Lowery, the 28-year-old personal assistant accused of the murder, watched the photos with a passive expression.
Ms. Illuzzi-Orbon asked the diminutive 5’1″ coroner, “Could you have made these wounds?”
“Me?” Dr. Slone asked. “Well, someone my size,” she said, if they were armed with a heavy metal weapon such as a stapler or candlestick holder.
But defense attorneys seized on uncertainties in the doctor’s reconstruction of what happened in Stein’s apartment that afternoon. “The blows could have been dealt by a construction tool of some kind, let’s say a pipe,” asked Wilfred Sta. Ana. Dr. Slone agreed a metal pipe, wooden object or even hammer could have been responsible for the star-shaped lacerations all over Stein’s body.
Mr. Sta. Ana also questioned the coroner about the time of death, which she said could have occurred almost any time that day because Stein was found in a state of rigor mortis.
As the prosecution’s case draws to a close, speculation has begun to mount about the defense’s case, and specifically whether Ms. Lowery, who could spend 25 years in prison, will testify. Defense attorneys have been tightlipped, and declined to offer any indication of their strategy in the next few weeks.