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July 31, 2023 30 mins

Bob moves again, but this time to the sleepy midwestern town of Minot, North Dakota.  For Carole and Mindy it seems like Bob might be getting away with it, until some prosecutors from the Manhattan DA’s cold case unit turn up in Vegas.  

If you are affected by any of our topics please reach out to NO MORE at https://nomore.org/girlfriends, a domestic violence charity we’ve partnered with.  

The Girlfriends is produced by Novel for iHeartRadio.

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Listen to our soundtrack on Spotify here or buy the album from Bandcamp. All proceeds go to our charity partner NoMore.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:06):
Novel.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Hey listener.

Speaker 3 (00:12):
In this episode, there are mentions of domestic violence and
how it's treated in the justice system. We also take
on eighteen Holes of Golf with two poker plane prosecutors.

Speaker 2 (00:24):
If you do listen.

Speaker 3 (00:25):
And are impacted by any of our themes, you can
reach out to No More, a domestic violence charity we've
partnered with. They have lots of great resources to help
you or your loved ones. You can find them at
no More dot org. That's n mor dot org. In

(01:00):
the spring of nineteen ninety six, Bob had the audacity.

Speaker 2 (01:04):
To call me for advice.

Speaker 3 (01:07):
It was really strange because I hadn't talked with him
in months since our messy breakup. But Bob goes on
to tell me that he had met someone in Obgyn
named Janet, and in true Bob's style, they were already
engaged and due to be married within the next few weeks.
He also said that Janet was getting cold feet and

(01:28):
he wanted my advice on how to reassure her. I mean, really,
a guy dumps you and then calls you up for
advice about his new fiance. Anyway, the reason she was
getting cold feet is because in order to register their marriage.
Bob had to order a copy of Gail's death certificate,
and when it showed up in the mail, Janet.

Speaker 2 (01:49):
Was really shocked to read the cause of.

Speaker 3 (01:51):
Death as undetermined and in bracket torso with homicide written
and circled underneath. I'll admit I was a little taken back.
I mean, first, I'm hearing that he's marrying a woman
that he met only a few months before, and then

(02:11):
he wants advice on how to tell her about his
missing wife. Bob also tells me in this strange at
fuck phone call that he's moving to Mino, North Dakota.
He's gotten some lucrative job in a hospital up there,
So look, anyway, I tell him, tell her the truth, Bob,
whatever that meant. And I hung up and immediately reached

(02:33):
out to the club. I mean, in a way, it
was really funny, but I also wondered if we needed
to tell Janet what we knew.

Speaker 4 (02:43):
We were around the table at the Mayflower and Stephanie said,
do you think that we should warn her? And I
think we just sat with that a little bit and
unanimously we sut, no.

Speaker 3 (03:10):
I wonder if that would be different today, I might
do it different today.

Speaker 4 (03:15):
If it was today, I don't know if I'd offer
that speculation because it was speculation.

Speaker 3 (03:28):
Mindy's right, we didn't want to go barging into Bob's
fiance's life with our theories. You and I know so
much more than we ever did back in the nineties.
Back then, we were still a bunch of grown ass
women using a code name to discuss our ex over
Asian noodles. This was still just a glorified game of clue.

(03:51):
But soon we'd find out that we weren't the only
ones trying to solve this murder mystery. I'm Carol Fisher
and from the teams at Novel and iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (04:04):
You're listening to The Girlfriends.

Speaker 3 (04:07):
Episode five, The best job.

Speaker 2 (04:09):
A lawyer could.

Speaker 1 (04:10):
Have got you.

Speaker 3 (04:43):
Bob married Janet on June twenty third, nineteen ninety six,
and it couldn't have been more different than his wedding
to Gail. This time it was in Ithaca, New York,
and instead of the dancing crowds of family and friends,
there were less than a dozen people. But I since
found out that going back to New York for the
wedding was a very clever decision because it meant the

(05:06):
Gale's death certificate, which had to be filed with the
marriage license, was kept in the New York public record
and wouldn't follow him to his new home.

Speaker 2 (05:15):
Mine, not North Dakota.

Speaker 5 (05:18):
Now your local.

Speaker 6 (05:19):
Weather with the k X new Storm team, welcome back,
and it is snowy, snowy, snowy out there.

Speaker 5 (05:25):
This sure looks like it's going to be a big.

Speaker 2 (05:27):
One, heavy snow falling thing.

Speaker 7 (05:29):
Mine.

Speaker 2 (05:29):
Not to the uninitiated. Mine. Not North Dakota.

Speaker 3 (05:34):
Couldn't be further from the big lights of New York
or Las Vegas. It's a small, agricultural Midwest town close
to the Canadian border, and yet it is cold. At
the time, I didn't know much about Bob's life in
North Dakota back in the nineties. I mean, there weren't

(05:56):
all these resources that make it easy to cyber stalk
your ex. We couldn't keep tabs on Instagram or Facebook.
So my producer Anna reached out to a bunch of
local Facebook.

Speaker 2 (06:07):
Groups to see if anyone remembered Bob.

Speaker 8 (06:13):
I expected to get five or so people saying, oh,
I've heard about him, but I actually got something crazy
like it was between fifty to one hundred individual comments.
There was this big camp of people who thought he
was the best doctor that they'd ever worked with or

(06:34):
ever been treated by. There was this one woman whose
husband had injured his hand in a chainsaw injury, and
he was in so much pain that he went back
to his German Russian dialect and was starting to speak
and like mutter and German because he was obviously very distressed.

(06:55):
And the wife said, oh, speak in English so that
the doctor can understand you. And Bob goes, He's like,
don't worry, I can speak German and then does the
rest of the consultation in German.

Speaker 3 (07:08):
Well, right, he spoke five languages. I mean, it was
part of the attraction of how smart he was. Yeah,
oh my gosh.

Speaker 2 (07:21):
And what do they say about his marriage? Do they
mentioned Janet?

Speaker 6 (07:25):
Yeah?

Speaker 8 (07:25):
I think the only things that people already said about
the marriage were how he would bring her these fresh
homemade bagels, because that was his whole thing. He baked
a lot of bagels in North Dakota. Apparently, who's quite
known for that.

Speaker 3 (07:39):
He had to bring the Jewish heritage in North Dakota.

Speaker 8 (07:41):
He was really establishing himself as the local Jew. Yeah,
and he would drop them into her office, and apparently
she spoke about him with a lot of affection and
he did the same, so they seemed like a real unit.

Speaker 2 (07:54):
Wow, that's incredible.

Speaker 8 (07:56):
But I did speak to one woman on the phone,
and I really want to play you this clip because
she had a very specific and unique experience with Bob
that I think speaks to what we've heard other people
talk about when you're a patient of his, or you're
in care of another patient of his and his anger

(08:17):
starts to come out.

Speaker 2 (08:19):
Oh wow, Okay, I'm interested.

Speaker 7 (08:22):
He was my son's plastic surgeon. My son was born
with a class look in palate. I remember one specific
time my son had just had surgery. He was probably
six months old. We were in the hospital and came
to check on us, and my son was holding his
own bottle because he knew when it hurt and I

(08:44):
didn't know when it hurt him. And he came in
and chewed me out up one side and down the other,
yelling at me till I was in tears. Why was
he yelling at you? Because my son was supposed to
have arm braces on that kept their arms straight so
they didn't pull out the stitches. Or pull at their lip.

(09:07):
So I took those arm braces off and let him
hold his own bottle, and it was very upsetting to him.
One of the nurses was sitting at the nurses station
and realized that he was yelling at me and came
in and said, that's enough. I think you need to
leave now. We'll take care of it from here. And

(09:31):
I was eighteen at the time.

Speaker 2 (09:39):
That sounds like bob to a t.

Speaker 3 (09:43):
Highly unpredictable, could go from you know, zero to one
hundred in terms of anger, and very judgmental of people,
so judgmental.

Speaker 8 (09:56):
There were quite a few people he said stuff like that,
who was going in for I think a breast reduction
and he made her cry And I think, you know,
the way some people rationalized that was that that's what
doctors are like, that's what doctors are like.

Speaker 2 (10:12):
But I don't think that's true. I can't believe that
you talked to all these people.

Speaker 8 (10:20):
So actually I met up with a minor local who
was visiting London for a theater tour and her name
was Harry Epstein.

Speaker 3 (10:28):
You met her, yeah, I did, and she's Jewish.

Speaker 2 (10:30):
She is Jewish, yeah, because that last niw.

Speaker 8 (10:33):
And she got to know Bob after he started working
in the same clinic as her husband, so they hung
out a lot because of the medical community and the
Jewish community.

Speaker 2 (10:42):
So here is a clip.

Speaker 6 (10:44):
He was just smart guy, you know, good doctor, but
women found him creepy. I don't know what other adjective
to use to describe him. You just got it could
be feeling when you would talk to him, and his
eyes it was sort of like he would look right

(11:05):
through you kind of thing.

Speaker 2 (11:09):
Yeah, those purecing eyes.

Speaker 3 (11:13):
It was as if he could stare at you, but
he wasn't connecting with you.

Speaker 2 (11:18):
He was looking through you.

Speaker 8 (11:28):
There was another similarity that you had with Harriet that
I wanted to play you as something that she said
that reminded me of something you said on your first
date with Bob Kate.

Speaker 6 (11:42):
I remember one time we were going to a function
at the synagogue and he was helping me unload my car,
and I said, oh, Bob, have you ever been married before?
Because he was of the right age that maybe this
was going to be a second marriage. And he said,
why would you say that. It was a very visceral

(12:03):
immediate response, and I said, I don't know. I was
just curious and he just didn't respond. If there was
nothing questionable about his previous marriage, you would have thought
he would have said, yes, but my wife died something
like that, but she didn't.

Speaker 3 (12:28):
Well that's crazy that she had that same experience and
he had that same defensive, non committal answer.

Speaker 2 (12:37):
Yeah, he hadn't straightened it out.

Speaker 3 (12:40):
So did the community of mine not welcome him in
with open arms?

Speaker 7 (12:46):
Yeah?

Speaker 8 (12:46):
He was a big part of the flying community. And
he made bagels, which Harry Epstein actually ran the only
local bagel shop there. So they're really fulfilling the roles
of the only two Jews pretty much.

Speaker 2 (13:00):
I don't know that it's hysterical. Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3 (13:03):
Okay, from what I've learned, it seems like Bob really
settled into this new stage of his life and mine not.
He contributed to the local paper offering articles on how
to avoid snowblower injuries. He even became the talk of
the town after he performed emergency surgery on a young

(13:24):
boy who was attacked by a tiger. Oh yes, you
heard me write, a tiger. Apparently it happened when the
young boy and his family were posing for a photo
with a tiger in a visiting exhibit at the North
Dakota State Fair. It was at the end of a

(13:46):
long day and the tiger lashed out, clawing the five
year old's face. He was fine in the end after
Bob patched him up. But that's not the kind of
content we were looking for.

Speaker 4 (14:03):
There was a period where there was a lull where
and he was writing snow blower injuries in the minor newspaper,
and then there was nothing For a while.

Speaker 3 (14:17):
Bob was living that good Midwestern life. He was married,
he had a Golden retriever. But back for us in
Las Vegas, it felt like an era was over until
the actual detectives showed up.

Speaker 5 (15:01):
Being a homicide prosecutor is probably the best job a
lawyer could ever have in my view.

Speaker 3 (15:07):
Meet Daniel Bibb and his partner Steven Sirocco.

Speaker 5 (15:11):
Steve and I we were friends when I first started.
We're still friends today, which is a knock around kind
of guys.

Speaker 3 (15:17):
Dan and Steve headed up the Manhattan DA's Cold Case
homicide unit together, and they are everything you want two
homicide prosecutors to be. Dan is a huge guy, easily
six foot seven and built to own it. He's got
a thick serious mustache that's designed to strain Italian wedding
soup and copp bistros all around the West Village. And Steve, well,

(15:41):
he's about as New York as it gets, half Italian,
half Irish, but a little smaller than Dan.

Speaker 4 (15:48):
I'm not a shrimp, I'm like five foot nine. But
this guy as the monster.

Speaker 3 (15:53):
They formed their new cold case unit in nineteen ninety six,
which meant that Dan and Steve could come out of
the usual grind of active homicide cases around the city.
They were living the dream.

Speaker 5 (16:04):
It was like working with my best friend. We could
work with the detectors that we wanted to work with.
We could refuse cases if we wanted them. We could
pick and choose, and we picked a lot of good
ones and picked some lemons too.

Speaker 3 (16:15):
When you're dealing with old cases, you end up with
a lot of witnesses dotted around the country, and so
Dan and Steve traveled extensively to interview people on cases,
people who'd often aged and retired to warmer states, which
must have been really hard.

Speaker 5 (16:32):
We went in Florida so much that I got to
be good friends with the concierge at the Royal Palm
Crown Plaza in South Beach. We found hotels that eighteen
holes of golf was included in the room rate.

Speaker 9 (16:44):
You know, I'm not staying at Motel six.

Speaker 5 (16:47):
A pool, a beach, a golf course, a casino to
play poker and steaks.

Speaker 9 (16:54):
We liked to have three hour lunches, we liked to
have a cocktailer after work, and we'd like to invest
to getting homicides.

Speaker 3 (17:07):
Dan and Steve were getting a reputation as people who
win cold cases, so the DA's chief investigator, Andrew Rosenswig,
decided to bring them something personal, a case that had
been weighing heavy on his conscience. Gail Katz Beerrenbaum. Andy
led the DA's original investigation into Gail's disappearance from nineteen

(17:32):
eighty six to eighty seven, and he had become totally
convinced that Bob was responsible.

Speaker 2 (17:38):
For her death.

Speaker 3 (17:40):
Though we couldn't mount a case against him, he concluded
that Bob was the most dangerous man he had ever known.
With only a couple years left before retirement, it was
now or never.

Speaker 9 (17:56):
He came into my office one day and put a
box on the table well the paperwork of the Burnbaum
case and said why don't you and Dan take a
look at this and see if you can go someplace.

Speaker 5 (18:07):
He said, it's a missing person's case. There's nobody.

Speaker 3 (18:12):
I know what you're thinking the torso we'll get to it.

Speaker 2 (18:16):
Hold tight, And both.

Speaker 5 (18:19):
Steve and I looked at Andy and said, you know, Andy,
those cases are really, really hard to do, and we
agreed to review the case. We picked up a file.

Speaker 9 (18:34):
I took some of the material home that night to review.
The thing that struck me, It would struck anybody. You
don't have to be a homicide investigator. And there is
a what's called the DD five. DD five is a
Detective Bureau document that synopsizes an interview, and there's an
interview with doctor Birnbaum's psychiatrist, doctor Michael Stone, and doctor

(19:01):
Michael Stone was so upset with his session with his patient,
doctor Birrenbaum, that he's required to fire off a letter
to Gail that she is in danger and should get
out of the house. It's called the Tarasov letter.

Speaker 3 (19:20):
This was the mysterious letter that Gail told Denise and
Elaine about the one she was going to use to
manipulate Bob in getting a divorce.

Speaker 9 (19:31):
That evening, I called doctor Stone, fully expecting him to say, well,
you know, I can't really discuss this, when I.

Speaker 10 (19:40):
Said, I've reviewed some documents here and it appears to
me that Gail Cats was murdered and that your patient,
doctor Burrenbaum, probably killed her. Yeah, I think i'd say about.

Speaker 9 (19:53):
That, he said, and I pretty much quote.

Speaker 10 (19:57):
Of course he killed her. Doctor Birrenbaum is a dangerous cycle.

Speaker 9 (20:02):
This case has been burning on my skull for the
last dozen years. Then I figured, I think we should
take a closer.

Speaker 5 (20:11):
Look at this.

Speaker 3 (20:35):
By nineteen ninety eight, Gail's sister, Elaine Katz, had become
a very successful family lawyer. She had two kids, a husband,
and a nice house out in Westchester. I don't want
to say she had moved on, but her life just
couldn't revolve around Bob anymore. And then she got a call.

Speaker 11 (21:01):
The phone rang, and my secretary said, it's the District
Attorney's office. And I said to myself, oh crap, one
of my clients got in trouble. But I answered the
phone and it's Andy Rosenswag. Although I might have chosen
not to think about these things, it took me a

(21:22):
half a second to realize it was on the phone,
and I will never forget him saying, we have a
cold case bureau in the DA's office and we've had
a lot of success, and I'd like to open up
Gal's case. And I mentioned, you know, the Torso, and
I'll never forget him saying what torso. So the body

(21:49):
was found in Staten Island. That made it a Staten
Island investigation apparently, And this Staaten Island police department, another
borough of the City of New York, didn't talk to
the Manhattan Police Department, And the medical Examiner of the

(22:11):
City of New York didn't talk to the police department
or the district Attorneys. No, they didn't. So Andy and
his assistant came up to see me. We went through
my files. I had the autopsies, I had all of
the records, and they began the process of reinvestigation. Andy

(22:39):
Rosenswig wouldn't retire without getting him without at least trying.

Speaker 3 (22:51):
Andy took up the role of investigator again. He was
responsible for finding early leads and handing over investigative and
to Dan and Steve, who would then build the case
towards prosecution. It wasn't going to be easy opening a
cold case comes with some really clear obstacles like fading memories,

(23:13):
dead witnesses, or a lack of fresh forensic evidence, But
there are multiple reasons why Dan and Steve had much
better odds solving this case. A decade later, attitudes towards
domestic violence and how to police it were changing dramatically,
which was making prosecuting domestic violence cases easier, even cold cases.

(23:39):
Take that time when Gail went to the police station
and reported that Bobbitt strangled her after he caught her smoking.

Speaker 5 (23:47):
That police report sat in a file cabinet. This is
nineteen eighty five. Domestic violence wasn't a big deal. Unfortunately,
if that happened in twenty twenty two, that police report,
that complaint report would have made its way to a

(24:09):
detective and Barnbaum would have been arrested the next day.
But the awareness of domestic violence and the cycle of
domestic violence certainly didn't exist in nineteen eighty five.

Speaker 12 (24:26):
When somebody went into a precinct and made a complaint
like that, when there weren't necessarily dedicated domestic ballence police
officers who would take the complaint or follow up on it,
it would sort of languish there.

Speaker 2 (24:41):
This is Cindy Kinischer.

Speaker 3 (24:42):
She joined the Manhattan Die's Office as a prosecutor in
nineteen eighty eight, a year after Andy shelved Gale's case.

Speaker 12 (24:50):
The problem was, domestic bolence cases are not exactly like
your run of the mill other cases. The complaining witnesses
or the victims that you're working with or dealing with
trauma and dealing with history of violence, and dealing with
so many other things in their lives going on as

(25:11):
a result of the abuse that are very different than
the average crime victim.

Speaker 3 (25:19):
I've thought a lot about how you become Gail or
someone like her when things are clearly so toxic, so violent,
Why don't you just walk away when is enough enough?
But I know it's never that easy. You already know
that I stayed longer than I should have. And Gail,
she did try to alert her situation to the police,

(25:42):
but she wasn't listened to, and that is not her fault.

Speaker 12 (25:47):
I don't think that the cases were getting the attention
and being handled the way that was best for the
victims and layered on that is. Historically, women who came
and made complaints of sexual assault or domestic violence were
looked at as women who were scorned or making it

(26:11):
up or you know, wanted to get money. And I
mean some of that still exists today, right, but I
do think it's rooted in that.

Speaker 3 (26:21):
Then in nineteen ninety four, Congress passed a Violence Against
Women Act, putting one point six billion dollars towards the
investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. It was
the year Nicole Brown Simpson was violently killed, and the
case against her husband, the football player OJ Simpson, riveted

(26:44):
the nation. Little by little, the public's understanding of domestic
violence was changing. While it wasn't perfect, things also started
to improve within the justice system. Police departments got training
on how to deal with spousal abuse. DA offices around
the country introduced victim impact prosecutors attorneys who were specially

(27:08):
trained to deal with domestic violence cases. And with all
that going on, there was a feeling in the late
nineties that maybe Gail's case would go differently if it
was given another go.

Speaker 2 (27:23):
So Dan and Steve started with.

Speaker 13 (27:25):
The basics oh looking over the files in detail, getting
in touch with key witnesses from the past, and booking
luxury hotels in the gambling capital of America.

Speaker 3 (27:41):
Next time New York comes to Las Vegas and our
investigations collide.

Speaker 5 (27:48):
When you pick up a cold case, the first thing
you do is you redo everything that's been done in
the past, and that's what we did.

Speaker 9 (27:55):
I think he was engaged to like three or four
different women in Las Vegas. He dated the entire Jewish
professional community.

Speaker 5 (28:01):
We interviewed every single one of the girlfriends out in
Las Vegas.

Speaker 4 (28:07):
She said there's just something wrong with him.

Speaker 5 (28:11):
She actually accused him of killing Gail, and he remained silent.

Speaker 9 (28:17):
He never mentioned that he had rented that plane that afternoon.

Speaker 11 (28:23):
After a string of curses, I said to them, you
have ripped the shred of closure that I have away
from me.

Speaker 3 (28:51):
The Girlfriends is produced by Novel for Ourheart Radio. For
more from Novel, visit novel dot Audio. The series is
hosted by me Carol Fisher and produced by Anna Sinfield.
Our assistant producer is Julian Manyu, Gera Patten, and our
researcher is Madeline Parr. The editor is Veronica Simmons. Max

(29:15):
O'Brien is our executive producer. Our fact checker is Valeria Rocca.
Production management from Sharie Houston and Charlotte Wolf. Sound design,
mixing and scoring by Daniel Kempsen and Nicholas Alexander. Music
supervision by Anna Sinfield. Original music composed by Luisa Gerstein.

(29:38):
Story development by Isaac Fisher. Willard Foxton is creative director
of Development. Special thanks to Shan Glynn, David Waters, might
Le Raw, Katrina Norvel, David Wasserman.

Speaker 2 (29:53):
And beth Ann Mcalouso.

Speaker 3 (30:00):
We did reach out to Bob and his legal team
to ask if he'd like to comment on the podcast,
but we never heard back.

Speaker 2 (30:12):
Novel
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