A night of blowing off steam in Manhattan for a visiting mother of three ended tragically on Sunday morning. Kiersten Rickenbach Cerveny was found dead in the doorway of a Manhattan apartment building under mysterious circumstances that have sent a frenzy of rumors flying across the New York tabloids.
Cerveny, who lived on Long Island with her husband and three children, spent her last night out on the Lower East Side, drinking and possibly doing cocaine at a downtown hotel and a number of bars, according to law enforcement sources talking to the New York Daily News. “Word is she likes to do drugs,” a police source told the New York Post.
She then met up with a friend, alleged by the Daily News to be Mark Johnson, an Emmy-nominated HBO producer. When the bars shut down around 4 a.m., the pair apparently traveled to Chelsea to visit James Holder, who is reportedly a resident of the building where Cerveny was later found and whom the Post describes as Johnson’s dealer.
According to law enforcement sources speaking to the New York Post, surveillance footage showed Cerveny being carried down the apartment’s stairs by two men. One of them allegedly told police that he grew scared when she “turned blue” and then called 911 after trying to give her CPR. They left before cops arrived on the scene and found Cerveny with her feet propping open the front door. Paramedics failed to revive her and Cerveny was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. She had reportedly not been robbed. The Daily News reports she was fully clothed except for her underwear, which was found in her purse, while the Post quotes a resident who said she was taken out of the building “topless.”
“She was supposed to stay with a friend,” her father, Robert Rickenbach, told the Daily News. “He [her husband] hasn’t heard from her.”
Investigators have yet to declare a cause of death, and autopsy results are pending. The Daily Mail reports that suspicious marks were found on her neck that could be a sign of strangulation, but also may have been the result of a recent medical procedure.
Until Sunday, Cerveny appeared to lead a charmed life. In 1995, she was crowned America’s Junior Miss, snagging the title with a ballet performance to “This is the Moment” from the play Jekyll and Hyde. She was already a high achiever, graduating from high school at the top of her class while competing in varsity diving and tutoring elementary school kids. “Kiersten has an incredible beauty within her,” her mother, Dianne Rickenbach, told reporters after the pageant. “She is a very grounded young lady.” Then 18 years old, she told the Times Leader she was spending the summer helping her father, a furniture store owner, install his products in college dorms.
At 18, Cerveny—then known by her maiden name of Rickenbach–dreamed of going into neonatology, and had already planned to have two or three children. She was awarded a $30,000 scholarship that she put toward a bachelor’s at Duke University, and later went on to get her medical training at Tulane in Louisiana.
It was after graduating from medical school and while completing her residency that she met Andrew Cerveny, a fellow dermatologist. They had both become extremely successful by the time they married at Manhattan’s swanky Gramercy Hotel. According to their 2009 wedding announcement in The New York Times, she was chief of dermatology at Brooklyn Hospital Center and an assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, while he owned a private practice in Masspequa. Cerveny later fulfilled her younger self’s dream of starting a family in the 8,000-person Long Island hamlet of Manhasset—a community once ranked as the top place to raise kids in the New York metro area.