The former Playboy Playmate who fell to her death with her 7-year-old son from the 25th-floor window of a Midtown hotel on Friday was allegedly driven to suicide over an increasingly nasty divorce with her husband, New York City chiropractor Charles Nicolai.
Stephanie Adams, 47, checked in to the Gotham Hotel on E. 46th Street just before 6 o’clock Thursday evening with her son Vincent. Their bodies were discovered the next morning on a second-floor landing in the building’s rear courtyard, NYPD Chief William Aubry said at a news conference.
“Early this morning investigators located an individual whose attention was drawn to that same second-floor area when he heard two loud noises,” Aubry told reporters. “His attention was drawn to that and he discovered these two deceased individuals.”
“I can’t really talk about it, it’s an ongoing investigation,” a desk clerk at the Gotham told The Daily Beast. “The cops have everything; they have the surveillance video.”
An employee at Nicolai’s office in the Financial District also declined to speak on the record, saying “The practice has no comment at this time.”
A doorman at the Wall Street-area building where Adams and Nicolai kept an apartment said he had been instructed by management not to talk about the case at all, but confirmed to The Daily Beast that Nicolai does still live there.
The detective assigned as lead investigator on the case was unable to be reached.
Since 2008, at least 631 children have been killed by a parent going through a divorce or custody battle, according to the Center for Judicial Excellence. Police said Adams did not leave a suicide note. According to retired NYPD Detective Sgt. Joe Giacalone, this is normal.
“Believe it or not, notes are pretty rare in suicide cases,” Giacalone, the one-time commander of the Bronx Cold Case Squad, told The Daily Beast. “If you have a suicide note, you question it even more—most of the time, the victim doesn’t leave one.”
Giacalone, who now teaches police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said cops treat “every death as suspicious until proven otherwise.”
“This isn’t one of those things where the cops walk up to the scene and say, ‘OK, yeah, suicide. Let’s go for lunch.’ It’s the same steps you take with a homicide investigation until you can unequivocally say that this person took their own life. You don’t want to see someone get away with murder, that’s why you do it like that.”
Adams’ marriage to Nicolai was her second. Her first, to stockbroker Edward Borrelli, ended in divorce. In 2003, Adams came out as gay. But then she met Nicolai online, and they were married in 2009.
“We felt like we were soul mates right from the beginning,” she told a reporter in 2012.
Five years later, Adams filed for divorce.
The couple, who shared custody of their son, reportedly had at least 10 domestic incident reports on file with the police. Some were for fights between the two of them. Others involved Adams and another woman who has not yet been publicly identified.
In February, Adams had Nicolai arrested after claiming that he had given their son food he was allergic to. The DA’s office declined to prosecute.
Lately, things had become so bad between the two of them that they had to hand Vincent off to one another for visits at the local police station. Nicolai hired one of the city’s top divorce lawyers, Bill Beslow, who has represented boldface names from Mia Farrow to Robert De Niro to Philip Roth to Marla Maples, in her 1999 split from Donald Trump. Adams, on the other hand, was said to be deeply in debt and was on her fourth lawyer in a year.
According to public records, Nicolai had a concealed-carry permit and was licensed to take X-Rays. On Adams’ personal site, StephanieAdams.com, which is still live as of this writing, she describes herself as a “Proud sharpshooter and NYC licensed owner of rifles, shotguns, and firearms.”
However, Adams was denied a gun permit in 2015 by the NYPD, which pointed to her involvement in multiple domestic disputes “as both a complainant and a perpetrator.” She was approved the following year, and allowed a New York Daily News reporter to accompany her while she bought herself a Desert Eagle .50-caliber semi-automatic pistol.
Of her Playboy days, Adams’ site says she was “dating the founder and CEO of Elite Model Management, John Casablancas, at that time and he appeared with her in one of the feature photos for her Playboy centerfold pictorial….After dating Casablancas, Adams married an Italian investment banker, whom she subsequently divorced. Adams then dated other prominent New York City men, including famous ones such as Robert De Niro. Soon after ending a long term relationship around that time, Adams was seen around town with LGBT notables such as comedian Marga Gomez and rock star Joan Jett...Since then, Adams dated a very high-profile attorney as well as a highly successful but extremely controversial financier, eventually marrying someone else briefly until soon afterwards filing for divorce.”
She became mired in a number of lawsuits, suing the NYPD in 2012 for allegedly roughing her up during a dispute with a cab driver, then getting sued in 2013 by an employee for wrongful termination by Nicolai, who told her she was being let go because Adams was jealous of her looks.
Adams sold New Age books and aromatherapy oils through her company, Goddessy, a portmanteau combining the words “goddess” and “odyssey,” according to her commercial site, which is also still accessible as of now.
“Aside from her various business projects, Adams dedicates most of her time investing in Fortune 500 companies, which enabled her to become a self-made millionaire before the age of 30,” reads another of her online bios. “Now Adams also dedicates most of her time towards philanthropy, and continuing to enjoy as much of a private life as she can possibly have with her husband and son.”
Adams also seems to have had a sideline venture on Etsy, selling what were apparently her child’s artworks for $100 apiece, although she doesn’t appear to have recorded any sales.
She claimed to be directly descended from Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as “Josue, Bishop of the Holy Grail, [who] was born the year 100 in Merovingia, Austrasia, and was married to Gwladys verch Eurgen Siluria from Britain,” and Nest Ferch Gruffydd, Princess of Wales, and Godgifu, Countess of Mercia, “who is more famously known as ‘Lady Godiva.”
For his part, Joe Giacalone knows what his first line of inquiry would be if he was still on the job.
Says Giacalone, “I have yet to see a hotel nowadays where you can even open the windows.”