By the time Debbie Brown turned her white volvo onto Eliot Drive in the Suffolk County town of Lake Grove, she already knew something was wrong. For nearly a day and a half, she and her husband, Steven, had been unable to reach his parents. Debbie normally spoke to her mother-in-law daily; and Steven, who ran a $30 million cleaning business called Eastco with his father, spoke to him several times a day.
“It’s hard to explain,” Debbie says, “but I just had this eerie feeling.”
She drove slowly down the gently curving, tree-lined stretch of modest homes until she reached No. 24, Heyward and Ellen Brown’s white colonial. Their cars were in the driveway. She could also see water seeping out from under the garage door and flowing down the blacktop.
“I was so nervous I actually went past the house,” Debbie says. “Then I turned around and came back and parked in front. I left my 2-year-old in the car and walked up to the front door.”
It was late in the afternoon on a bleak, overcast Friday in December, but Debbie remembers the house looked especially dark. She knocked on the door. Nothing. Not even a bark from Charlie, the Browns’ cocker spaniel. Debbie was really nervous now. She was on the cell phone giving Steven a running account of the scene.
“Something’s definitely wrong,” Steven said, agitated. “Go back to the car and call the police.”
It had already been a difficult week for Debbie. Steven was sick, suffering the effects of what doctors believed was a form of hepatitis, and Debbie had been taking care of him around the clock. Friday was going to be her day out, her brief escape. She made an appointment to have her hair done, and Steven’s mother said she’d watch the baby. Debbie left a couple of messages for Ellen Brown on Thursday to confirm their plans but didn’t hear back. “So on Friday, since I hadn’t heard from Ellen, I took my mom and the baby and went to the beauty parlor,” Debbie says.
“The officers asked me, ‘What would you say if we told you we thought it was your brother?’ And I told them I thought they were out of their minds. I told them they’d have to prove it to me.”
“I called Steven from the car, and he said he still hadn’t heard from his mom or dad. It was past noon and his dad hadn’t even been in the office, which was really unusual. So I said I’d drop my mom off and then drive over and check the house.”
When a cop showed up on Eliot Drive, Debbie explained the situation and told him she didn’t have a key to the house.
“He broke in through the back door, and he was only in the house a couple of minutes,” Debbie remembers. “And when he came out, he had this look on his face, this look of shock. He said, ‘I think your mother-in-law’s dead.’ And I was like, ‘What? Can you call an ambulance? Should I call an ambulance?’ He just shook his head slowly and began using his radio to send out an emergency call.”
When Steven Brown pulled up, he found his wife kneeling on the ground with a police officer hunched over her. “And suddenly she just starts screaming,” he recalls. “Then a homicide detective comes up and starts to shake me. ‘Where’s your father? Where’s your father?’ And I’m screaming, ‘Where’s my mother? Where’s my parents?’ And he says, ‘Listen to me: Your mother’s dead. We need to find your father. Is there any possibility your father would hurt your mother?’ I – I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
Moments later, several cops emerged from the house and told Steven and Debbie they’d found his father. In the basement. He was also dead. It was now around 4:30 in the afternoon, barely an hour since Debbie had first arrived.
What had minutes before been a quiet, picture-perfect middle-class suburban street of small but fussed-over front lawns, two-car garages, and eat-in kitchens with knotty-pine cabinets had been transformed into a freakish spectacle.
There were cops and cop vehicles (buses, cruisers, ambulances, and a camper-mobile unit to be set up as a command post) everywhere. The police had established a perimeter, lit the area, secured the crime scene, and begun to canvas the neighborhood.
“I was basically in shock,” says Steven. “I couldn’t even get my wife up off the ground. My body was shaking. One of the neighbors was coming home from work, and he’s yelling at me, ‘What happened? What’s going on?’ And I looked at him and said out loud for the first time, ‘Somebody killed my parents.’ “
Two and a half years later, despite a massive effort by the Suffolk County police, no one has been indicted for the murders and no arrests have been made. Though the investigation remains officially active, Police Department sources say no arrests are anticipated anytime soon. In fact, the cops admit they have essentially hit a wall. But just because the cops don’t see any arrests on the horizon doesn’t mean they don’t have any suspects. They do. They have one suspect: Steven’s older brother, Harvey.
Before the murders, the Brown family was living a version of the Long Island dream. They worked hard for their success in the most unglamorous of businesses, cleaning toilets and mopping floors. The building-services business, like the trash-hauling industry, sometimes involves tough, blue-collar warfare (several of Eastco’s trucks have been set on fire), and occasionally, charges of mob influence.
But having earned their money the hard way, the Browns enjoyed it: flashy cars and watches, trendy clothes, country-club memberships. Heyward was a man who liked his luxuries, and one who thought nothing of buying a new car for one of his sons on a special occasion. At the time of the murders, the couple (he was 54, she was 53) were in the process of decorating their recently purchased dream house, on a golf course in Delray Beach.
Steven and Harvey grew up with money, but they hardly seem like rich kids. Both have a kind of unpolished edge and can be harsh, demanding, and quick to anger. Too similar perhaps to ever really be close, they’d drifted apart over the years, as Steven teamed up with his father in the family business and Harvey settled into his role as angry troublemaker. Still, he was by no means an obvious suspect – especially to Steven.
“The detectives were at my house early one morning about three months after the murders,” says Steven, who’s 34, two years younger than Harvey. “And they asked me, ‘What would you say if we told you we thought it was your brother?’ And I told them I thought they were out of their fucking minds. I told them they’d have to prove it to me.”
Slowly, the cops laid out their case against Harvey Brown. To begin with, there were problems with his alibi. He claimed he’d gone to visit his girlfriend in Manhattan. But police sources say the girlfriend doesn’t corroborate the time frame of his story, and the cops can place him near his parents’ house around the time of the murders.
Harvey was estranged from his parents and had fought bitterly with his father for years, at one point threatening to go to the Internal Revenue Service with allegations of wrongdoing at his father’s company. Harvey believed he was denied his rightful place in the family business. There were also aspects of the crime scene that clearly indicated the killer was familiar with the house and its occupants.
In addition, Harvey wouldn’t cooperate with the police. The one sit-down he did agree to have with the cops was with his lawyer present – a criminal lawyer. He refused to give a sample of his blood, claiming he believed police would use it to frame him by spreading it around the crime scene, and he repeatedly refused to take a police-administered lie-detector test.
Once Steven made the leap, once he began to believe his brother actually bludgeoned their parents to death, he desperately wanted him punished. But as time went on, he believed it was less and less likely that the police would ever make a case against Harvey. And so he decided to take matters into his own hands, to essentially declare war on his brother.
He would use the considerable personal wealth he had earned as co-founder, CEO, and president of Eastco, and as sole benefactor of his parents’ estate, to jump-start what he believed was now a moribund investigation. To this end, he hired the private investigating team of Bill Stanton and Jack Maple. Stanton is an indefatigable, gregarious former New York City cop known for his pluck, and Maple is the wily, internationally known onetime wizard of One Police Plaza. Steven’s hope was that Stanton and Maple would find the missing piece of the puzzle that would irrefutably tie his brother to the murders. Steven has also hired a profiler, a former NYPD detective named Ray Pierce, and retained Norman Rein, a now-retired Suffolk detective who worked the case early in the investigation.
But the major offensive in his war against his brother is a $17 million wrongful-death suit Steven has filed against Harvey in civil court. It is extremely rare to bring a wrongful-death action in a murder case when there have been no prior criminal proceedings. In fact, this may be the first time it’s ever been done in New York.
The more common approach is the one taken by Ron Goldman’s family in the O.J. Simpson case: filing a civil action after the criminal trial is completed. Steven’s hope, however, is that the lawsuit will shake something lose, turn up some new piece of evidence, or push his brother into making a mistake.
“This legal strategy raises some interesting and maybe even troubling questions,” says Howard Fensterman, Steven’s lawyer and close friend. “Can the civil process be used as an investigatory tool to aid and abet a law-enforcement agency in its investigation? Indeed, should it? Will families become impatient with the criminal-justice system and pull the trigger too quickly? Can these kinds of cases compromise the criminal investigations?”
Fensterman doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but he thinks it’s unlikely this kind of legal maneuver will be widely copied: “We have done our due diligence. We have hired a high-end investigation firm and several other experts. It takes significant resources to mount this kind of action. The suit itself, however, is not about money. Harvey doesn’t have any, and Steven doesn’t need any.”
Soon after Steven went public with his civil suit, Harvey responded by starting a Website, a place where he could freely have his say: www.doublemurder.com. The site’s stated purpose is to help find the real murderer (maybe O.J. Simpson should try this), raise money for Harvey’s defense, and rebut Steven’s charges. But it is, regardless of one’s view of Harvey’s guilt or innocence, an extraordinarily bizarre and creepy exercise.
The site has a brief primer on the murders, pictures of his parents and Harvey and Steven in happier times, and pages that are, well, weirdly inappropriate, like the “Double Murder Scrapbook.” Fensterman is labeled both a “scumbag” and a “liar for hire.” There’s even a page of Harvey’s favorite links, which includes a cartoon of a man masturbating.
Steven’s team accuses Harvey of using the Website as a weapon of intimidation. Along with the general abuse heaped on Steven and Fensterman and Stanton, Harvey has posted their addresses and phone numbers; details about their families; pictures of Steven’s kids; and descriptions of specific things each man has done recently – all of which seems designed to let them know he’s watching and that he can get to them whenever he wants.
As a result, Steven has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the security of his family. Both he and Debbie have expensive, highly trained attack dogs: His is a $15,000 Doberman, hers a German shepherd. There’s a bodyguard, and Steven also has a gun, for which he has one of only three full-carry permits in Suffolk County.
In a nearly 40-minute phone conversation with me, Harvey dismissed the lawsuit and the accusations of murder as a hateful attempt by his brother to destroy him: “They have no case, and their reasons and their arguments are ridiculous.”
Steven wants to ruin him, Harvey says, over (what else?) money. As principals in Eastco, Steven and his father had what’s called key-man insurance – life insurance taken by the partners in a company. If one partner dies, the other is the beneficiary. When this $1 million policy was taken out, about two months before the murders, Heyward Brown told the insurance company he no longer smoked.
However, when his body was found, there was a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. Harvey then gave the insurance company a statement that his father was indeed a smoker. “Steven gave me an ultimatum. He threatened me that he was going to do this,” Harvey claims, referring to the murder accusations and the civil suit, “if I testified that my father was a smoker. I have tape-recorded phone calls. He lost a million dollars on that policy.”
But isn’t Steven already a millionaire, I asked Harvey? “My brother would slit your throat for a million dollars; that’s the kind of person he is. In fact, he’d do this for $10,000. I’ve been witness to my brother fighting with employees over a dime-an-hour raise.”
Though Harvey wouldn’t discuss events of the day of the murders, he told me that he loved his father and his mother and that they loved him. He said he intended to call friends of theirs who would testify to this. He also claimed he wasn’t cut out of the family’s business. Instead, it was his decision. “I walked away from that business; I wasn’t thrown out. I don’t like the cleaning business – that’s why I’m not in it today.”
Harvey said Steven’s other reason for coming after him is to suppress what he claims to know about possible tax fraud and other irregularities in the formation of Eastco. “He wants to make me look like a liar and a murderer because he doesn’t want the truth to come out,” Harvey said.
“If my brother said today that he’d cooperate fully with the police and take a lie-detector test,” says Steven Brown, “then I’d call off the dogs. But it’s so beyond that now. There’s no doubt in my mind that he did this. That’s why I filed the suit. I want justice and dignity for my parents. Nobody should die the way they did, and I’m not gonna let the Suffolk Police Department forget about them,” he says, exasperated.
“I want to go on with my life. I’ve got two children, a wife, and hundreds of people that depend on me. But I want to be known as the guy who did the right thing for his parents. When that happens, I’ll happily fade into the sunset.”
Steven and Harvey grew up in Lake Grove, a relentlessly middle-class town of store managers, small-business owners, and split-levels. It is the Long Island of Billy Joel songs, Joey Buttafuoco diction, and the Smith Haven Mall. Eliot Drive is the kind of street where the houses are so close to one another you can easily see in the window of your neighbor. The Browns were different from their neighbors, however – at least financially. Their grandfather was the developer of the original rubber pants for babies, the waterproof garment that used to be worn over a cloth diaper. He owned a big factory, which he rode to in a chauffeured car. Steven and Harvey always had more than the other kids in the neighborhood.
The boys had a typically rocky, older-brother-younger-brother relationship: They’d fight, they’d make up, then they’d fight again; and once they reached their teens, with Harvey two grades ahead in school, they didn’t spend much time together. Steven was small, wiry, and athletic and devoted much of his time to sports. Harvey, on the other hand, was always more interested in cars and girls. And growing up, Harvey had the closer relationship with their father, based in part on a shared love of machines.
Papers were spread out, and the wills had obviously been read. “In all my years on the force, I’ve never seen a murderer outside the family stop to read a will,” says Pierce.
The trouble seemed to start after Harvey went to college. For his freshman year at the University of Tampa in 1982, Harvey’s father bought him a brand-new Celica Supra, the hot new Toyota that every kid on the Island wanted. By the end of his first year at school, Harvey had grown a mustache, started working out, and was tending bar part-time.
When the owner of the bar complained one day that he could never get anyone reliable to clean it, Harvey said that was his family’s business: He could do it. He got the contract, and by the end of his sophomore year, he’d built a $200,000 business. Steven, meanwhile, did a semester at Suffolk Community College to get his grades up and worked for his father at night.
“Harvey said to my dad, ‘Why doesn’t Steven come down here to school and we’ll work on the business together,’ ” Steven remembers. Everyone agreed this was a good idea – and in hindsight, it was probably the last untarnished moment the three men had.
Within days of his arrival in Florida, Steven began to wonder what he’d gotten himself into. Though he and Harvey lived in a house with two roommates, and there were parties and lots of girls, Steven ended up working in the business as many as 100 hours a week. For $100.
“I was like Harvey’s slave. For a while, putting in all the hours seemed like the right thing to do,” Steven says. “I mean, we were supposedly trying to build a business. But I was exhausted all the time, my grades began to nosedive, and at the end of a year and a half, I dropped out of school. Maybe even worse was that I learned that my brother was clearly not the guy I thought I knew. He was really into drugs, and he’d gotten really mean.”
The breaking point came when Heyward went down to visit the boys. “Late one night, I got a call from this huge black guy who was cleaning one of the bars,” Steven remembers. “He told me he was shorted on his pay and if someone didn’t come down and straighten it out, he was gonna wreck the bar. Harvey was out somewhere, so I figured I better go see him.”
When Steven got to the bar the guy was really worked up, and in an effort to defuse the situation, Steven said he’d call his brother, who ran things. “Luckily I got him on the phone, but Harvey immediately starts screaming and cursing and saying, ‘I’ll blow that motherfucker’s brains out.’ Well, my dad was there and he overheard what was going on.”
“Where’s your brother?” he asked.
“He’s at one of the bars,” Harvey said.
“Why aren’t you there with him if there’s a problem? He’s your brother.”
“So,” Steven says, “Harvey came down with a 9-mm. and put it right up against the guy’s head. He told him to get the fuck out, he was fired. Which, of course, meant I ended up having to clean the bar. I didn’t get home till 7 a.m., and my dad finally saw what was happening.”
Steven went back to New York to work with his father, but Harvey was unbowed. In fact, he was ready to expand. He’d met a girl from New York whose father had a seat on the stock exchange. Harvey hired someone to run the cleaning business for him, and with seed money from the girl’s father he opened a kosher deli in Tampa.
In April 1986, Heyward got a call that the restaurant had burned down. Harvey was hurt in the fire and in the hospital, but he’d be okay. Heyward flew to Florida to make sure Harvey was all right. But about a week later, after he’d returned home, Heyward got another call. This time it was to let him know Harvey had been arrested for arson. He was charged with burning down his own restaurant.
Harvey’s story was that he was out delivering his cleaning-business payroll, drove by the restaurant, saw the smoke, ran in to try to put the fire out, and got burned. At the time of the trial, the girlfriend filed a complaint against Harvey for threatening her with a gun over what she might say. Her father made a deal with the insurance company to recoup his money and testified against Harvey.
“He’d become completely ruthless,” says Steven. “He didn’t care about anybody.”
Harvey was acquitted, but his relationship with his father was never the same. The trial forced Heyward to take a long, hard, unblinking look at his son.
At the same time, Brown Industrial Maintenance, Heyward’s business, was foundering. Always more the outgoing, affable salesman than the hard-nosed, focused financial manager, he’d made some decisions that hadn’t worked out and then compounded the difficulties with his profligate spending. Perhaps the best evidence of this was that he not only hired Harvey at a time when he couldn’t afford to – after the mess in Florida was over – but bought him a new Corvette, thinking maybe it would help him get through his problems.
By 1989, the company was unable to meet its debts and Heyward filed for bankruptcy. But Heyward and Steven and Howard Fensterman had a plan: The Browns would start a new company that, given Heyward’s financial difficulties, would be in Steven and his mother’s names. Though the new business seemed to solve one problem, it created two others.
Heyward had to accept that Steven, his 22-year-old son, would be in charge. “I had to tell my father this is the way it’s going to be,” says Steven. “I told him I knew how to manage money and that I’d make all the financial decisions. And the first thing he’d have to do was scale back. No country clubs, no fancy cars, no vacations. He felt demeaned by this at first, but we developed a different relationship at work. We weren’t father and son there.”
The other problem was Harvey. He was left out of the new company. “From the day he went to work for my father after the trial was over,” Steven says, “he did absolutely nothing. He was no help. Most of the time, he didn’t even show up.”
Nevertheless, Steven says Harvey felt he was entitled to a piece of the new family business. Since he wasn’t getting it, Steven claims, he stole a couple of accounts, along with some cleaning equipment, and started his own company. Harvey then told his father if he tried to retaliate he’d go to the IRS and claim there were irregularities in his business.
“So my father was in a pretty rough spot,” says Steven. “He’s got one son who’s turning against the family and the other one, the little one, is taking over. My father lost it with Harvey at that point and told him he was disowned. Harvey said, ‘Listen, you cocksucker, I never needed you anyway. You’re a failure, you let the family down, and you’ll probably end up coming to me for a job.’ “
Despite the efforts of Steven and his mother to keep the family together, it never quite worked anymore. There’d be holidays and special occasions together – Harvey was best man at Steven’s wedding in 1994 – but the tensions kept escalating. “His behavior just got worse and worse,” Steven says. “He’d use foul language at really inappropriate times. He’d pass gas at the table. He’d berate waiters in restaurants. He was unbelievably rude and obnoxious. And his belief that we’d screwed him became more and more of an issue.”
In early 1997, Harvey finally managed to alienate even his mother. They’d gone out to lunch and he was being particularly belligerent. “He was telling her how he got screwed. How the family was doing so well and he got nothing, he was left out in the cold,” Steven says his mother confided to him.
“She was telling Harvey, as she had many times before, that he really needed help. That he needed therapy. And at some point he said to her, talking about my father, ‘How can you sleep with that filthy animal?’ And that was it. My mom called me, crying, and said she was never going to speak to him again.”
Months passed without any communication. Then in November, just before Thanksgiving, Steven persuaded Harvey to make some kind of apology to his mother. Harvey didn’t go to the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but the first step toward a rapprochement had been taken. In December, Steven made a decision he says he’ll regret for the rest of his life.
Eastco was having its best year, and Steven, flush with feelings of success, raised the possibility with his father of inviting Harvey to the company’s holiday party. Heyward wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t say no. “So when Harvey walks into Mario’s, a restaurant in Suffolk, what does he see?” asks Fensterman.
“He sees a big successful company that now has hundreds of employees. Harvey meanwhile has no job – at least none that we know of – and he’s a failure. Steven was home with hepatitis. So Heyward gets up to make a speech, and while he’s talking, Harvey is disparaging him to people he’s standing near. Then he sees a guy named Frank Mancuso, who’s a recently hired Eastco executive vice-president, and he says to someone, That guy is sitting in my chair. He’s got my office.
Two days later, Heyward and Ellen Brown were dead.
Detective Norman Rein was at home, getting ready to work his third consecutive 5 p.m.-1 a.m. tour, when he got a call around four that there’d been a homicide on Eliot Drive in Lake Grove. Rein, a 38-year veteran of the Suffolk Police Department, arrived at the scene just before 4:30.
Once he was briefed and had a short conversation with Debbie and Steven Brown, he did a walk-through to familiarize himself with the crime scene. “We entered through the front door, and there was a real heaviness inside the house, the air felt cold and wet, and we were sloshing around in water,” says Rein, a bullet-hard, just-the-facts kind of cop.
The water that Debbie Brown had seen running down the driveway was coming from a bathroom where the killer had turned on the water in the tub. It had been running for nearly 24 hours; the house was flooded. The killer was either very clever or just very lucky. Either way, the water destroyed nearly all of the forensic evidence.
“The kitchen ceiling had collapsed, and the place almost looked like a fire scene,” says Rein. “And my initial feeling was that there’d been a significant amount of staging done at the scene.”
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.”