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June 18, 2012 Special to Crime Magazine
An excerpt from The Millionaire’s Wife: The True Story of a Real Estate Tycoon, his Beautiful Mistress, and a Marriage that Ended in Murder by Cathy Scott. (St. Martin’s Press True Crime Library, March, 2012.)
by Cathy Scott
Chapter 1: A Cool Manhattan Morning
A light rain fell over Manhattan on a weekday morning like any other. But life can change on a dime, and that’s exactly what happened as middle-aged business tycoon George Kogan hurried back to his ultra-chic Upper East Side apartment with a bag of groceries on each arm in anticipation of breakfasting at home with his young lover. The late morning of Tuesday, October 23, 1990, turned out to be anything but a typical day in the city.
On the busy sidewalk, George, who’d recently celebrated his 49th birthday, turned the corner onto East Sixty-ninth Street and headed toward his mid-block building, between Second and Third. As he hurried down the tree-lined street, he didn't notice anything unusual other than the cool morning temperature.
He continued walking toward the canopied entrance to the co-op where he’d lived for the last two years with Mary-Louise Hawkins, a 28-year-old rising star in the public relations world. Across the street, carpenters noisily worked on the new Trump Palace high-rise apartment building. A few blocks away, Central Park was alive with pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers as they coursed through the park's major arteries to their destinations in New York City, where the drone of urban traffic awaited them. George enjoyed walking the neighborhood. He’d lose himself in the bustling sights and sounds of the city. And this day was no different.
Walking from the neighborhood Food Emporium, he looked forward to spending the late morning with Mary-Louise. Quiet breakfasts were how their relationship had moved from platonic to romantic, and they especially appreciated those moments. Plus, George was anxious to prepare for an afternoon meeting with his son, William, who was acting as mediator to nail down an agreeable divorce settlement with George’s estranged wife, Barbara, and bring to a conclusion the marriage that in essence had ended two years earlier.
As George headed home that morning, William telephoned his father’s apartment to confirm their afternoon appointment. Mary-Louise told him she'd have George return the call when he arrived home from the store. George was optimistic about the settlement and finally getting the lengthy divorce behind him, so he and Mary-Louise could move on with their life together. Also uppermost in George’s mind was settling the divorce to help repair the damaged relationship he’d had with William, who sided with his mother after his parents’ separation.
As George continued his walk home, the usual cast of characters was out and about: nannies pushing babies in strollers, residents leaving their high-rises to walk their dogs, business people hurrying to the subway entrance just steps away. George, distracted with the nagging thought of the afternoon meeting, quickened his pace when his limestone building came into view.
He lived in the heartbeat of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, once called the Silk Stocking District, so named for the attire worn by the rich people who had once lived there. Long gone was the 19th-century farmland, as well as market and garden districts that once peppered the area. Left were skyscrapers, rows of stylish townhouses, mansions, and the occasional walk-up apartment building.
For a millionaire antiques and art dealer who once had interests in a casino and several properties in Puerto Rico and New York, George lived a surprisingly modest life on New York’s well-to-do Upper East Side, broadly defined as the area from Fifty-ninth to Ninety-sixth streets, east of Central Park. His living quarters with Mary-Louise Hawkins were definitely nice, although small, with just one bedroom and a marbled-bath washroom. And while the apartment had a prestigious address with the coveted 10021 zip code in a luxurious high-rise complex, it was not quite up to elite level of Fifth Avenue, which serves as the symbol of wealthy New York, and where George once lived with his now-estranged wife Barbara. Still, he admired the high-end building that housed his current apartment.
The Upper East Side has a legacy of outstanding eclectic architectures, including George’s pre-war apartment. The façade of his co-op, a mix of limestone and beige brick, created a grand entrance with its surround and above-the-door stone molding, with tall arched relief details and shallow columns on either side and carved Renaissance-style capitals. Above that was a heavy, stately ornamental stone molding. The variety of styles added a touch of grace and grandeur of a bygone era. As a connoisseur of fine antiques, George appreciated the artistry that went into the face of the building and enjoyed walking through the double-glass doorway, framed in oak, with its etched Art Deco design. What George could not know was that he would never again walk through that entryway, and the anticipated meeting with his son and his soon-to-be ex-wife to finalize the divorce, was not to be. What happened next, he never saw coming.
As he neared the entrance to his Sixty-ninth Street apartment, his face flushed from the damp morning air, what he heard next was startling. It sounded "What the-‐-‐?" George cried out a nanosecond later, when it dawned on him what the noise really was. It was the distinct sound of gunfire.
No, no, no! he said to himself, then, Mary-Louise!
The force of the bullets entering George’s back thrust him into a forward dive and catapulted him into the air; he landed in a skid on the rain-soaked concrete. He was face down just yards from his apartment. Seconds felt like minutes.
Coins, bills, and groceries – a carton of eggs, a slab of kosher cheese, a bottle of milk, pieces of fresh fruit – tumbled to the ground, along with George. Sprawled on the sidewalk next to the wall, with his arms stretched out in front of him amidst scattered groceries and money, George lifted his head and cried out, "Help me!"
The gunman stood a few feet from George. Out of the corner of his eye, the shooter, who showed no emotion, saw someone move. He quickly turned his attention from George toward a woman stepping out of a car parked at the curb. The two locked eyes, and then the assailant, with a cold, determined confidence, turned and hurried away on foot. He looked down and returned the black revolver, still in his left hand, to his waistband, hiding it under his jacket. Then he hurried up the sidewalk.
The shooter fled the scene as quickly as he had entered it. He headed a half-block west on East Sixty-ninth Street to Third Avenue before rounding the corner, turning right, and disappearing into a stream of pedestrians on the crowded sidewalk as he headed north. When the gunman was a safe distance away, he stepped toward the next pay phone he came across and placed a local call.
"It's done," the assassin said into the receiver. He hung up the phone and again disappeared into the morning pedestrian traffic.
Back at Sixty-ninth, lying flat on the concrete, his face ashen and his body alarmingly still, George called out once more. He tried to get up, but it felt as if an undeniable force held him down. He tried shifting his weight, but that didn't work either. Immobilized except for his head, George Kogan rested the side of his face on the cold, wet sidewalk. He felt the light wind against his forehead.
Dark water stains below the air conditioners at each apartment window in George’s building marred the exterior marble walls and portions of the concrete sidewalk below, where George lay bleeding.
He was alone. But not for long.
He tried once again to lift his head when he heard footsteps approach. Bystanders stood over him. He was confused. Just then, George heard a familiar voice.
"George! What is it? What happened? Why are you –“ trailed Moses Crespo’s voice as he viewed with horror the gunshot wounds on George’s back and the blood seeping through his red T-shirt. Moses, who worked as a door attendant at George’s building, knelt next to him, stretched out on the damp concrete. He asked what had happened.
"I've been shot," George said. To Moses, George seemed calm. Almost too calm. He was in obvious shock. “Who did this?” Moses asked. “I don’t-- I don’t know. I didn’t see anyone.”
“Relax. Don’t worry, George. I’ll be right back,” Moses said, adding, “Is there anything else?”
“Can you get Mary-Louise? I want – I want to speak to her.” George told him. “Okay,” Moses said, then, “You will be all right. We are going to get help.”
"I'm dying," George uttered as Moses hurried away, first to call 911 and then to summon George’s girlfriend, Mary-Louise Hawkins.
Within a few long minutes, Mary-Louise walked through the lobby door expecting, per Moses’ request, to talk to George. Instead, she found her boyfriend lying on the damp sidewalk in a pool of blood. As she stood under the canopy taking in the scene a few feet from her, Mary-Louise became unglued.
“She went hysterical, screaming and jumping,” Moses said. “People had to restrain her.” That awful sight, George lying helpless, was what would stay with Mary-Louise, plus the fact that she and George did not get to say goodbye to each other. In the short time that had elapsed since Moses found him, her boyfriend of two years was already slipping in and out of unconsciousness.
Moses would be the last person to speak with George. At that moment, Moses’s mind was racing. He did not know what to think. He remembered George, a few months earlier, asking him not to accept any deliveries for him and not to confirm with anyone that he lived at the building.
Moses also wracked his brain trying to figure out why he had not heard the shots. Even though he had been in the lobby at the time of the shooting, he had not heard the gunfire. He had not known anything was amiss until a housekeeper ran to the door, pounding on it to be let in. Then Moses realized why he hadn’t immediately noticed the shots: Across the street, at 200 East Sixty-ninth Street, construction workers pounded away, literally, on the Trump Plaza, a luxury condominium complex that, at 55 stories, would be the tallest building at the time in Upper Manhattan. Each weekday during construction, workers used air-powered nail guns to build the high-rise.
But the pop, pop, pop Moses thought was from the construction site was in reality the sound of gunfire as an executioner opened fire on George Kogan’s back.
Chapter 7: The Hospital
At the sidewalk, an ambulance arrived with three paramedics, who knelt down to help George Kogan. Just a few minutes had passed since George had been gunned down, yet the street was already bedlam.
Paramedics, to get to the victim, had to break through the crowd and clear a path so they could begin their work on George. They immediately checked the 49-year-old for vital signs. They then covered him with a blanket to keep him warm. Within minutes, they called the physician on duty at New York Hospital’s emergency room.
“He’s breathing and semi-conscious,” a medic said. They put an oxygen mask on his face, which covered George’s nose and mouth, as they prepared him for the short trip to the hospital. They didn’t see any slugs on the sidewalk. While medics could not fully assess the damage of the gunshot wounds because of all the blood, they assumed they were massive, especially since the bullets and fragments no doubt remained in his body. They knew they needed to get him to the hospital, and stat. Paramedics prepared to transport George to the hospital, where a team headed by a surgeon would spend the next six hours trying to save him.
While Kogan wasn’t completely unconscious, he could no longer speak, and his skin was ashen. He was slipping into a coma, making Moses Crespo the last person to speak with George. “The ambulance medics picked him up on a gurney and took him away,” Crespo said. “That was the end of it.”
At least that was the end of it at 205 East 69th Street. Meanwhile, one medic carried the oxygen tank while the other wheeled George on a gurney to the rear of the ambulance. One stayed by George’s side inside the ambulance as the door closed. The driver flipped on the sirens and lights and rushed the five-block, two-minute route to New York Hospital at 525 East 68th Street. The driver pulled up next to the curb, and waiting emergency personnel rushed outside to the ambulance as the medics rolled George Kogan’s gurney into the emergency room. George had remained unconscious throughout the short ride to the hospital.
Once they assessed him, a team of attendants and a physician prepared him for surgery. Dr. Michael Marano needed to stop the bleeding and see if he could remove the bullets and fragments. George’s wounds were life-threatening, and he was placed on the critical list.
For the next six hours, Marano and the medical team worked on George. One of the high-caliber slugs had gone straight through his body, entering Kogan’s back and exiting his chest. Doctors were able to remove one of the bullets lodged in his chest. But one remained. He suffered from penetrating injuries and ballistic trauma with massive blood loss. Once they went into surgery, which lasted four hours, they discovered that one of the bullets had punched a hole in George’s heart.
As word of the shooting spread, friends and family gathered at the hospital. A woman at the scene, in the apartment lobby, asked Mary-Louise for her parents’ phone number and then called her mom for her.
While George was taken to the hospital, Mary-Louise returned to her apartment and called George’s sister, Myrna Borus. “She was hysterical, screaming, and I couldn’t understand a word she was saying, and I had to slow her down, because I didn’t know what she was talking about,” Borus would say. But she did pick out from that conversation that Mary-Louise was about to leave for the hospital. “She told me which hospital, and I ran over,” Borus noted.
Mary-Louise acknowledged, after seeing George on the sidewalk, that she “panicked, screamed, ran. I was grabbed back into the building because everybody was sort of unsure what was happening and didn’t know if I was going to be next, or what, so I just panicked.” Mary-Louise had no recollection of what she’d said that morning. “There were people sort of gawking, and there were a couple of people who worked in the building, but I don’t remember anything else,” she said.
Mary-Louise, accompanied by a doorman, took a cab to the hospital. Once there, she called Billy, then Scott. She told police she also called George’s lawyers. One by one, family arrived to at the hospital and sat visit, including Myrna and her daughter, along with Mary-Louise’s parents and George and Barbara’s son Billy.
Once at the hospital, Billy called his mother. But Barbara didn’t pick up the phone in her Fifth Avenue apartment.
“Mom, Dad’s been shot. He’s in the hospital. They’re going to operate,” said a tearful William in his voice message to his mother. Then he assured her he would keep her informed. But he also asked her to meet him at the hospital. He also told her that Mary-Louise was there too.
Billy, beside himself, tried calling his mother again, but her answering machine picked up. Barbara eventually returned his call, but she still remained at home. “She never came to the hospital,” Billy’s aunt, Myrna Borus, said, “but she kept calling.”
“Mom, maybe you should come,” Billy told her.
“I don’t think I should go, what with Mary-Louise there, Billy,” she said. “It might be uncomfortable.”
The decision not to visit her dying husband would come back to haunt Barbara and be used against her. She would later reveal to a newspaper that she’d been at home distressed and “screaming.” Her divorce attorney, George Golub, when reached by a newspaper, said Barbara couldn’t go to the hospital because she was in fear for her life because a gunman was still on the loose and she too could be a target. “She wanted to be there at the end. Just because you are divorcing someone doesn’t mean you don’t still have feelings for them,” the attorney told the Post. When police wouldn’t provide Barbara armed protection at the hospital, “So I told her she shouldn’t leave the apartment,” Golub said. “She was very upset that she couldn’t be there. I’m very worried about her safety and the safety of the family. We don’t know who did this or where they could be.”
Hospital officials would later say they’d contacted Barbara several times, pleading with her to visit the hospital, because George wasn’t doing well and it could be the last time she’d be able to see him. Despite their pleas, Barbara stayed home.
Thus, prominently missing from George’s hospital bed was his estranged wife, who lived in the Olympic Tower at 641 Fifth Avenue, just a mile-and-three-quarters from the hospital in Midtown Center. She could have easily caught a cab and been there in a matter of minutes. Still, Barbara stayed in her apartment.
At 11:38 a.m., about an hour and a half after the shooting, Barbara called her parents, Rose and Emanuel Siegel, at their home in Puerto Rico. The phone records showed it was a short conversation.
Barbara also called an unnamed friend who visited her at her apartment. Barbara had asked her friend to comb out her hair, in preparation for a trip to the hospital, just in case Barbara decided to go. The friend, it turned out, was a hairdresser.
A couple hours after arriving, Mary-Louise left the hospital briefly to go home, take a shower, change her clothes, and return to the waiting-room vigil, waiting with George’s family for word from doctors about George’s condition.
Then, Barbara in the late afternoon received a final call from the hospital. The news was grave. Her husband had passed away, just after 4 p.m., a hospital official told her. Doctors tried to revive him, but they were unsuccessful. They did what they could, but with injuries and damage to his liver, lungs, and heart, George had been bleeding internally and they could not stop the hemorrhaging.
Six hours after the shooting, at about 4 p.m., October 23, after two surgeries and the efforts of a medical team that tried to save him, doctors officially pronounced George H. Kogan as dead in the ICU’s recovery room. Once Kogan had died, his case instantly became a homicide investigation instead of an attempted murder.
But those at the hospital had not yet been told he’d passed away, and waited for word. His sister, Myrna, remembered it in detail. “They told us to sit somewhere and wait and that they would tell us,” she said. “And by the time I went screaming to ask what was going on, it had been an hour that he had passed away and they didn’t tell me anything.”
Instead, Barbara, still officially George’s wife and the immediate next of kin, was the first to be told. The news would drift out to George’s other family members, as well as to Mary-Louise, but only after it was obvious, from the doctors’ and nurses’ demeanor toward the family, that George’s status had changed. His family members and Mary-Louise Hawkins, at the hospital together in the waiting room, were stunned not only that he’d been shot, but, now, that he was dead. They tried to console each other.
In the meantime, about an hour and a half later, at 5:30 p.m., Barbara dialed her good friend Dawna Cole, who at the time lived in Norwich, New York. Barbara, Dawna said, was hysterical and wasn’t making sense. Dawna was surprised when Barbara asked if she knew the name of the attorney who had represented their mutual friend, Luann Fratt, after Fratt killed her husband and was prosecuted for the crime. Fratt, with her attorney using a self-defense strategy, was later acquitted.
“Do you know who her lawyer was,” Barbara asked Dawna, “in case I need one?”