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Sons and Killers

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Ellen Brown was found in her bedroom on the second floor. One arm was broken, and the probable cause of death was a blow to the head with a blunt object, most likely a fireplace poker. She was laid out on her bed, and in police parlance, her body presented as if there'd been a sexual assault. Her dress was pulled up around her shoulders, and she wasn't wearing any underwear. However, the coroner found no signs that she'd been sexually violated.

Both her hands and feet had been bound, and her head was elaborately wrapped with a layer of Saran wrap, a heavy trash bag, and then duct tape. There was no blood on the outside of the wrapping, indicating it was done after she was beaten and probably already dead.

Some of the dresser drawers had been pulled out and made to look like they'd been rummaged through. But the pattern, according to the cops, was too uniform to look like an actual ransacking. The killer also closed the bedroom door when he left.

Heyward Brown was found in the basement, lying in three or four inches of water. Since he sustained no defensive wounds and he still had his coat on when he was found, police believe he was initially struck from behind, probably as he was coming into the house from work. He had been bound and wrapped in more or less the same fashion as his wife, but he had been brutally beaten, perhaps even tortured; there were a number of holes in his chest and some other wounds police believe were inflicted after he was already dead.

The gruesome details of the crime are critical in this case, because they open a window into the personality of the killer. All of the items used in the elaborate setup of the bodies -- the rope, Saran wrap, trash bags, duct tape, and rubber Playtex gloves worn by the killer -- were taken from the house. And amazingly, all of the materials were put away after they were used.

In front of police, family, and neighbors the night the bodies were discovered, Harvey loudly announced, "It wasn't me. I was at the movies." He pulled the ticket stubs out of his pocket.

"You have to ask yourself why someone would do this," says profiler Ray Pierce, "and the answer is pretty clear. When we're under great stress, we instinctively revert to what we know, to what's comfortable. The killer was most likely someone who'd been told over and over again in that house to put things away, to clean up after himself."

Wrapping the heads of the victims sends two distinctly different messages. The cops believe on the one hand it was another piece of staging, used to give the murders a ritualistic air or, at the very least, the appearance of having been committed by a deranged person. Wrapping someone's head is also used, however, by killers who don't want to look at their victims' faces.

And the very fact that the killer spent hours in the house indicates a familiarity and comfort level with the schedules of the Browns. "No one spends this kind of time in a home invasion," says Rein. "In a home invasion, the objective is to get in and out as quickly as possible."

Though lots of expensive jewelry was out in the open and left untouched, several very personal items -- including those worn by the victims at the time of the attack -- were taken: Heyward's blue Rolex, a diamond-encrusted gold I.D. bracelet that said HEYWARD, Ellen's five-carat ring. None of these items has ever surfaced, which, police say, is one more indication this was not a robbery.

Even the closed door of Ellen Brown's bedroom is significant, according to Ray Pierce. Why would someone bludgeon his victim, go to the trouble of elaborately staging the scene -- painstakingly wrap her head, pull up her dress, take off her underwear, and leave her naked to make it look like a sexual assault -- and then close the door on his way out? A subconscious sense of modesty on behalf of the victim, says Pierce, felt by someone who had some kind of a relationship to the victim.

And in a spare bedroom, police found two blue boxes on the floor that contained the couple's personal papers -- including their wills. The papers had been spread out on the floor, and the wills had obviously been read. "In all my years on the force," says Pierce, "I have never seen any murderer outside the family stop to read a will."

Finally, there were two unmistakable signs of the killer's rage toward Heyward. All of the Brown men -- Heyward, Steven, and Harvey -- are serious car fanatics. When Eastco began to really take off as a business a couple of years ago, Steven bought matching Dodge Vipers for himself and his father. The killer, in a sort of final, declarative fuck you, dumped a huge potted plant on Heyward's Viper in the garage.

The violence of the murder itself left little doubt about the killer's feelings. Heyward was beaten so severely the medical examiner required his dental records to make a conclusive identification. "It was evident to me in the morgue that night that these people had died a horrific death," says Detective Rein. "The venom was enormous."

Shortly after the bodies were discovered, Steven and Debbie took refuge in a neighbor's house across the street, and it was here that Rein first met Harvey. When the detective walked into the by-now crowded living room, he heard one voice above all the others. Harvey was sitting on a couch, screaming and cursing into a cell phone. As Rein approached, Harvey ended the conversation and threw the cell phone across the room.

"It seemed like he was trying to draw attention to himself, and I thought his behavior was a little odd," Rein remembers, "but grief affects everyone differently."

Later, after Harvey's lawyer, Michael Hills, arrived, Rein had a conversation with the two men in a small den off the living room. "Harvey talked for maybe six or eight minutes nonstop," Rein says. "He told me about his arson arrest and trial in Florida. He told me he'd always fought anti-Semitism. And he talked all about his issues with his family, how he sued his dad, and how he should have been a player in the family business. But he said the relationship had been restored to the point of his going to the company Christmas party. My take was he felt vulnerable because of his estrangement from the family."

Harvey apparently felt vulnerable enough to loudly announce at one point in the living room that night, "It wasn't me -- I was at the movies." He then pulled the ticket stubs out of his pocket and showed them to one of Steven's friends.

Two days later, after the funeral, family and friends had gone back to Steven's house. Harvey approached Steven and said he wanted to talk about the wills. He told Steven he knew everything was split fifty-fifty. Steven told him it wasn't the time, and in any event he should call Howard Fensterman about it since he was the attorney for the estate.

Michael Hills, Harvey's lawyer, called Fensterman and got a copy of the wills. Harvey was livid, Steven says, when he found out the only thing he got was the house on Eliot Drive. Though the wills that were found at the murder scene had everything split down the middle, those documents were out of date. Heyward and Ellen had had Fensterman draw new wills in 1996, leaving Steven essentially everything.

A couple of weeks after the murders, the police had one other meeting with Harvey. "He was candid about some things and totally evasive about others. He suggested I was favoring his brother and that he, too, was orphaned by what happened," Rein says.

Rein wanted to know how Harvey earned a living. Though Harvey wasn't forthcoming, Rein discovered that his girlfriend, a woman named Elise Paulino, had been arrested for prostitution, and the cops wanted to know if Harvey fit into this. (They still don't really know.)

"But," Rein says, "based on information from that interview coupled with inconsistencies in his story and physical and forensic evidence, we began to look at Harvey as a suspect."

Less than two weeks later, Michael Hills, who was Harvey's best friend as well as his lawyer, was found dead in his garage. The death was declared a suicide. Hills had allegedly been stealing money from an escrow account. Soon after the body was found, Harvey reportedly went to Hills's office and removed his files.

"Who knows what happened there?" says Fensterman. "And since the files are gone, we'll never know. It remains just one more bizarre twist in a very bizarre case."

Harvey's world got even stranger. Near the end of 1999, Harvey took a job with Cushman & Wakefield at 75 Wall Street. He was fired after a few months, and one week later the building was bombed. No one was hurt in the small explosion, which occurred just before five in the morning. Harvey is now a suspect in the bombing, according to sources in the NYPD's arson-and-explosives squad.

When I asked Harvey about the accusations related to the bombing, he giggled. "I want them to arrest me for that," he said. "I'm so far removed that it's ridiculous. I'd have a lawsuit you wouldn't believe."

On a dark, rain-soaked afternoon several weeks ago, I was standing in Heyward and Ellen Brown's bedroom in the house on Eliot Drive with Steven and Debbie. The house is empty now, and all of the water damage has been repaired -- mostly by Harvey, who did the work himself.

Steven has had no communication with Harvey in nearly a year and a half. Even after the cops told him Harvey was a suspect, he'd continued to see him for almost a year. Steven had even given him a job, but after a while, he simply couldn't stand it. "I finally just told Harvey if he didn't cooperate with the police, we were done," Steven says. "And he said, 'Well, I'm sorry it has to end this way.' The next day, I got papers that he was suing me for firing him."

While the cops have embraced the civil suit, they have done so largely because they're stymied in their investigation. Simply put, they have nothing to lose.

"I'm still hoping Harvey'll say or do something so the cops can move on him," says Steven, walking from his parents' bedroom down to the kitchen. "But no matter what happens, I've already lost. Even if he goes to jail, my family has already lost."


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