Sneha was also experiencing “marital problems” in the months after she was fired from Cabrini, according to court papers, and “often stayed out all night with individuals (not known to her husband) whom she met at various bars.” She favored the loungy midtown lesbian bar Julie’s, the rocker-dyke bar Henrietta Hudson’s, and the divey gay rock club Meow Mix. According to the investigations, Sneha’s indiscretions appear to have reached a low point in the month prior to her disappearance. A police report says that her brother John walked in on her and his girlfriend—now the mother of his son—having sex. Her alleged struggles with depression, alcohol, and her sexuality spilled over into her new job as well. Staten Island’s St. Vincent’s Medical Center suspended her for failing to meet with her substance-abuse counselor.
Apparently these problems reared up again on the day she disappeared. Sneha had a court date on the morning of September 10, 2001, where she pleaded not guilty to the charge of filing a false complaint. Ron went with her before he left for work. According to the police report, the couple got into a “big fight” at the courthouse because Ron was upset that Sneha “was abusing drugs and alcohol and was conducting bisexual acts.” In this account, Sneha stormed out of court, leaving Ron behind.
Unable to tie Sneha’s death to the attacks, the medical examiner’s office removed Sneha’s name from the official list of 9/11 victims in January 2004. “This particular lady was known to be missing the day before,” explains Ellen Borakove, the medical examiner’s spokesperson. “They had no evidence to show that she was alive on 9/11.” And in November 2005, a Manhattan judge denied Ron’s petition to set Sneha’s date of death on September 11, 2001. Judge Renee Roth ruled that Sneha officially died on September 10, 2004—as set forth by state law, three years to the day after her “unexplained absence commenced.” Because Ron could not produce a 9/11 death certificate, the Compensation Fund denied his claim. Based on Sneha’s age and potential earnings, the claim would have been worth about $3 million to $4 million, according to an attorney who represented numerous other families who sought compensation. The police still don’t know what happened to Sneha, but the implication of the court decision is obvious: Sneha was just as likely to have left her husband, committed suicide, or even been the victim of a violent crime as to have rushed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Although he hadn’t spoken with Sneha in weeks, her brother concocted a story live on TV. “I was on the phone with her, and she told me she couldn’t leave because people were hurt. She said, ‘I have to help this person,’ and that’s the last thing I heard from her.”
Sneha’s family—Ron, John, and her parents, Ansu and Philip—dispute essentially everything in the police and court accounts. The event that precipitated Sneha’s decline—being let go by Cabrini—had nothing to do with alcohol, they contend. Instead, they claim Sneha was the victim of persistent racial and sexual bias at Cabrini and was dismissed because she was a whistle-blower. (A spokesperson for Cabrini says they have “no knowledge of any sexual harassment allegations made by Dr. Philip.”)
Ron admits that Sneha had gone home with women she met at bars but claims that her actions were innocent of the obvious implication. Sneha liked to see live bands and to have an occasional drink, and she preferred to do so at lesbian bars, where men would not hit on her—particularly after the groping incident, Ron says. She spent a few nights with women she met out on the town, but they talked or made art or listened to music until they fell asleep, he insists. One night, he recalls, Sneha met an artist at a bar and the next morning she came home covered in paint. “These allegations of her being bisexual are ridiculous,” Ron protests. “Because we don’t live a conservative lifestyle doesn’t mean that anything abnormal is going on. I’m a musician. I’ve been going out to bars and clubs my whole life. It doesn’t mean these things are dangerous activities.”
John claims that the missing-persons report, which states that he told Richard Stark, the detective assigned to the case, that he walked in on his sister and his girlfriend having “sexual relations,” is simply untrue, a product of cops sitting around playing Mad Libs. He maintains that he never even spoke with Stark, who has since retired and could not be reached for comment. Ron also says the report is riddled with fabrications. The fight at the courthouse, for example, never took place, he says. “Either I’m a liar or they’re lying, because I’m 100 percent positive about this,” he says. Ron and John offer little to explain what would motivate the police to lie. Mainly they suggest that investigators needed to compensate for their ineffectual police work by wildly extrapolating from the few facts they uncovered. (An NYPD spokesperson said that he was reviewing the case but could not comment at press time.)