Lawyers for the mother and son suspected in the disappearance of a wealthy Manhattan widow suggested Monday that one of her employees may instead be to blame.
Widow Irene Silverman, 82, rented a $6,000 a month apartment in her Upper East Side mansion to Kenneth Kimes Jr., 23, and his 63-year-old mother, Sante Kimes, last month.Police believe the two had hoped to scam Silverman, who has been described as a patron of the arts who hung a Renoir in a bathroom.
"She was not a nice person," Matthew Weissman, lawyer for Kenneth Kimes, told reporters outside Silverman's mansion.
"She's a tough lady. She treats her help very roughly. She's hard on her employees. She has lots of arguments with them. She is not the lovely, eccentric lady who was devoted to the arts," he said.
"It's possible that one of her employees may have done this to her and is responsible for her disappearance," he said.
Silverman had a staff of about 10, including a butler and several maids, and rarely left the house without at least one of them. Police fear the wealthy widow, a one-time ballerina with Radio City Music Hall who disappeared eight days ago, is dead.
Blood stains found outside her home and inside a Lincoln Town Car used by the Kimes has been identified by police as human. Forensic experts were using Silverman's toothbrush and hairbrush for DNA comparison tests.
The Kimes are being held on a Utah fraud charge stemming from an alleged $14,000 bad check they wrote for the Lincoln.
A search of the car turned up a laptop computer, a loaded 9 mm gun, about $30,000 in cash, phony wills, pieces of papers on which Silverman apparently signed her own name in a shaky hand, notary forms, deeds, and a jar filled with a pink liquid identified as a kind of sedative associated with date rape.
The lawyers said the gun and ammunition found in the car belonged to FBI informant Stan Peterson, who turned them in.
"They are not murderers," Jose Muniz, the lawyer for Sante Kimes, said. Asked if they were con artists, he said "that's a very strong term."
The Kimes are wanted for questioning in connection with a Los Angeles homicide and the 1996 disappearance of a bank executive in the Bahamas.