Videotape from the security cameras in her building played a key role in Tuesday's conviction of Realtor Linda Stein's murderer yesterday. Stein, "Realtor to the Stars," who in 2007 was clubbed to death by her assistant at Stein's posh Park Avenue Manhattan home located in an area that WalletPop.com names one of the safest in New York.
Natavia Lowery, 28, was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder for bludgeoning her boss repeatedly with a yoga stick, causing Stein "the most painful, brutal, horrible death one can imagine," prosecutors said Monday in closing arguments, according to DNAInfo.
Lowery also was convicted of 20 other charges related to stealing more than $30,000 from the real estate agent who once managed The Ramones before selling homes to celebrities such as Madonna and Sting. Lowery faces up to life in prison, but her family has already pledged to appeal and aggressively challenge the conviction, reported DNAinfo.com.
Inconsistencies in Lowery's statements and actions as she tried to cover her tracks and create an alibi are likely what helped sway the Manhattan Supreme Court jury to reach a decision in fewer than five hours after four weeks testimony from about 40 witnesses.
Here is how Lowery screwed up: 1. No trace of pot. Lowery said that Stein blew marijuana smoke in her face that deadly day. Tests revealed that there were no traces of marijuana in Linda Stein's body at the time, AOL News reported.
2. Pants hid blood stains. Photographs taken from the surveillance tape also revealed that Lowery appears to have turned her pants inside out after the murder, perhaps in an attempt to cover up blood splatters from whacking Stein at least 24 times with a blunt object, the prosecutors argued. Lowery is seen entering Stein's upper East Side building around 11 a.m. wearing khaki cargo pants with huge pockets on the outside (pictured above) - then leaving that afternoon with the pants inside out (pictured left). Prosecutors argued she was trying to hide blood stains and that she later ditched the pants in the East River.
Lowery's lawyers presented evidence to the jury that no blood was found on the jacket and sneakers she wore that day. Maybe that's because Lowery took them off and placed them in a coat closet upon entering. One might think Stein might be the type to have the rule "No shoes indoors." The cargo pants were never found by cops, the New York Daily News reported. (Watch the surveillance video below.)
3. Cell phone reveals true whereabouts. Although Lowery, 28, text-messaged friends to tell them she was home and "about to take her butt to bed" hours after Stein was murdered, cell phone records show she was actually near the East River, in the vicinity of the Williamsburg Bridge on the Brooklyn side, reported DNAinfo.
4. Voicemail times don't match. Lowery left Stein, 62, a voicemail that said, "Just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving work at 5:30. Hopefully the walk in the park was actually good.....if you get this before 5:30 you can just call me. If not, talk to you later. Bye." Prosecutors say the 28-year-old slipped up by telling Stein to call before 5:30. Authorities say the call was made at 6:00 p.m, reported local ABC News.
5. Stein was a walker, not a runner. In another purported step to mask her crime, Lowery left a note for her boss at her real estate office, Douglas-Elliman, before leaving for the day. "I waited for you to come back from your run but you never came to the office," Lowery wrote. "I guess you didn't want to run or the others to see you in your workout clothes." One of Stein's daughters, Mandy, said her mother, a recovering breast cancer patient, would go for walks in Central Park but would never run.
6. Identity theft history. Unknown to Stein, Lowery was accused of stealing a high school buddy's identity and using it to open accounts at Target and T-Mobile. The alleged victim said additional bills were racked up in Virginia. The misdemeanor charges against Lowery were eventually dropped and the case sealed, sources told the New York Daily News. Lowery was also once accused of stealing funds from a church.
Prosecutors have also alleged that after the murder Lowery transferred $10,000 of Stein's money to her own mother's bank account. That sum was later used to pay for Lowery's first criminal defense attorney, Ronald Kuby, after she was arrested and charged with murder on Nov. 9, 2007, according to DNAinfo. Ms. Lowery also opened two American Express accounts using her employer's name and forged a $4,000 check to the Girls and Boys Clubs to earn tickets to the premiere of American Gangster, reported the New York Observer.
7. There was a videotaped confession. Lowery initially denied killing Stein, claiming she had witnessed a masked man kill her employer who had told her she must not report the crime. She subsequently confessed to police that she had, in fact, murdered Stein, but then retracted that statement, saying it had been harassed out of her by police. The confession was videotaped. See it at the New York Time's "City Room" blog or below.
Sheree R. Curry is an award-winning business journalist who resides in a Minneapolis suburb.